On Sunday, the San Diego Chargers were busy on the waiver wire, grabbing three players who had been released by other teams. Two of those players, defensive tackle Caraun Reid and defensive back Pierre Desir should help improve the defensive side of the ball.
But the team also brought in a new running back, one who had one of the greatest seasons a running back has ever had in college football.
Andre Williams spent two seasons with the New York Giants after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft. At first, it appeared the Giants had gotten a steal. Williams had just come off a senior season at Boston College on which he rushed for 2,177 yards, the fifth-best total in NCAA history, while also finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting behind three quarterbacks, Jordan Lynch, A.J. McCarron and the eventual winner, Jameis Winston.
The Giants seemed poised to have a new thunder and lightning running back combination like they did years ago with Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber, only this time with Williams and Rashad Jennings.
Williams had a strong rookie season, leading the team with 721 yards rushing. He also had seven touchdowns and was given 217 carries while sharing the backfield with Jennings and Peyton Hillis.
At his best, Williams can get to the second level and turn into a virtual bowling ball, barreling through defenders. He also has a nose for the end zone and could really help the Chargers inside 5-yard line.
If you want an idea of just how powerful he can be in the open field, take a look at this clip from a game against the Washington Redskins.
Things changed in 2015 after the Giants signed Shane Vereen. The team opted to go with a four-headed running back combination that included Jennings and Orleans Darkwa. Needless to say, it didn’t work.
Williams saw his carries dwindle by the week and finished the season with just 88 attempts. He looked slow and indecisive and would often get stopped for no gain or even a loss of yardage. His career average fell to 2.9 yards per carry.
But is Williams to blame or was it the system? Did the offensive line in New York fail him?
He’s certainly worth taking a chance on, especially since the Chargers gave up nothing to get him. This makes him a low-risk, high-reward player and often, those are the best kind.
The Chargers brought Ken Whisenhunt back to be the team’s offensive coordinator this season and though he only spent one season in that role with the team in 2013, the running game was never better.
That season, the team ran for 1,965 yards and averaged four yards per carry. It was also the best year of Ryan Mathews’ career by far and not coincidentally, was the last time the team was in the postseason
It will be Whisenhunt’s task to get the most out of Williams, and that will start with providing him an offensive line to create holes for him to run through. The addition of Matt Slauson and a healthy Orlando Franklin and D.J. Fluker should help him do that. Of course, Melvin Gordon is the No. 1 running back on the roster but with Danny Woodhead used more on third down and passing situations, Williams could stand to get plenty of work.
Whisenhunt will be just what the doctor ordered for the struggling running back. Mathews averaged just 825 yards rushing per season over the course of his first three years in the league before he exploded for 1,255 yards in his one year working with coach Whiz.
While I wouldn’t suggest such a dramatic increase in yardage for Williams, I would suggest that he can be a serious weapon for this team, particularly since he’s just two years removed from being one of the best rookie running backs in the league.
Since Williams posted 2,177 yards rushing in 2013 at Boston College, two players have surpassed that number. Gordon is one of those players. That means the Chargers currently have two of the top seven single-season rushing leaders in NCAA history on the same team at the same time.
The Giants may regret letting go of Williams, especially once they see what Whisenhunt can do with him.