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Chargers 2016 positional grades: Running Back

Dec 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Josh Mauga (90) attempts the tackle during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Josh Mauga (90) attempts the tackle during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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The Chargers have moved to Los Angeles. We’ve covered that from all angles here at Bolt Beat, so let’s get back to the norm, shall we?

Looking back at the 2016 season, it seems like the Chargers were a good rushing team because of the success that Melvin Gordon found on the ground. But the numbers don’t indicate that as compared to most of the other teams in the league.

In fact, the Chargers’ 94.4 yards per game on the ground put them on No. 26 in the league for the year. In other words, only six teams gained less yardage in that area.

The Chargers were hampered by injuries at the running back position all year. As a result, seven different running backs carried the ball in 2016.

One of the biggest injuries all season came early on when do-it-all back Danny Woodhead went down early in the second game of the year against the Jacksonville Jaguars. A torn ACL would end his season. Of course, Gordon wouldn’t finish the season either after a tough injury late in the year against the Carolina Panthers.

Let’s go back and look at how each of the running backs played this season and hand out a letter grade for each. Also, if you missed my first installment of positional grades from the offseason, click the link below.

Melvin Gordon

2016 Statistics:

Carries: 254

Yards: 997

Yards Per Carry: 3.9

Touchdowns: 10

Receptions: 41

Yards: 419

Touchdowns: 2

Though the injury prevented Gordon from reaching the 1,000-yard mark by a hair, he still had a terrific season, mostly because his rookie season was such a disappointment.

You would have liked to see him have a little better than a 3.9 yards per carry average, but he made up for that by being a solid option in the passing game. When the Chargers set up the screen pass, it looked unstoppable once Gordon caught the ball. Plus, his 12 total touchdowns made him one of the top scorers in the NFL.

There does need to be some concern over his injury history, but his ceiling is high right now and he should only continue to get better next season.

Grade: A-

Sep 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) lays on the ground with an injury during the first quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) lays on the ground with an injury during the first quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) lays on the ground with an injury during the first quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Woodhead

2016 Statistics:

Carries: 19

Yards: 116

Yards Per Carry: 6.1

Touchdowns: 2

Receptions: 6

Yards: 35

Touchdowns: 1

Though his season was cut short due to injury, it was clear that Woodhead was going to have a big year, perhaps the best of his career.

Despite Gordon scoring two touchdowns in the first half of the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, Woodhead was still inserted and given more carries than him in the second half. Woodhead responded with a big game.

However, the Chargers were never able to adequately replace him. He has suffered season-ending injuries in two of his four seasons with the Chargers and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Grade: I (Incomplete)

Dexter McCluster

2016 Statistics:

Carries: 3

Yards: 2

Yards Per Carry: 0.7

Touchdowns: 0

Receptions: 11

Yards: 36

Touchdowns: 1

Dexter McCluster was signed off the street following the injury to Woodhead, and even though he wasn’t on an NFL roster, there was optimism about him due to his time with Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee.

That never panned out.

McCluster was largely ineffective when he was on the field and was another player that ended the season in injured reserve. Of course, that injury didn’t come on the field. McCluster broke his forearm in a freak incident at home and for that, his grade drops even further.

Grade: D

Jul 30, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Kenneth Farrow (L) participates in a drill with San Diego Chargers fullback Derek Watt (34) during training camp at Chargers Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 30, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Kenneth Farrow (L) participates in a drill with San Diego Chargers fullback Derek Watt (34) during training camp at Chargers Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 30, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Kenneth Farrow (L) participates in a drill with San Diego Chargers fullback Derek Watt (34) during training camp at Chargers Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Kenneth Farrow

2016 Statistics:

Carries: 60

Yards: 192

Yards Per Carry: 3.2

Touchdowns: 0

Receptions: 13

Yards: 70

Touchdowns: 0

I had high hopes that Kenneth Farrow would turn some heads after the injury to Gordon, but he was a disappointment.

Early on in training camp, you may remember me saying that he would make the final 53-man roster despite being an undrafted rookie. He was able to do that. But when he was called onto the field, his 3.2 yards per carry average was among the worst in the league. He just looked slow and not ready to be on an NFL roster.

That said, I would be no means give up on this guy. He has talent, he just needs time to bring it all together and become a more complete football player.

Grade: C

Sep 1, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers fullback Derek Watt (34) runs after the snap during the first half of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Qualcomm Stadium. San Francisco won 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 1, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers fullback Derek Watt (34) runs after the snap during the first half of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Qualcomm Stadium. San Francisco won 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 1, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers fullback Derek Watt (34) runs after the snap during the first half of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Qualcomm Stadium. San Francisco won 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Watt

2016 Statistics:

Carries: 2

Yards: 4

Yards Per Carry: 2.0

Touchdowns: 0

Receptions: 4

Yards: 83

Touchdowns: 0

When it comes to the fullback Derek Watt, I’m not really going to pay attention to his statistics. His job was to block, and blocking he did well.

Watt was a college teammate of Gordon at Wisconsin and their chemistry together is one of the main reasons Gordon had the year he did in 2016. With Whisenhunt employing a fulblback to be the lead-blocker on several of his run plays, Gordon had a feeling of familiarity to run behind.

Watt paved the way to some big holes for Gordon to run through, and the two should make a great combination in the future.

Grade: B+

Ronnie Hillman

2016 Statistics:

Carries: 23

Yards: 81

Yards Per Carry: 3.5

Touchdowns: 0

Receptions: 3

Yards: 50

Touchdowns: 0

Ronnie Hillman was brought in to get the Chargers to the finish line. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Chargers had suffered a rash of injuries so the team decided to bring in the former San Diego State star, but he quickly showed why he was a street free agent.

The funny thing was that the Denver Broncos put in a waiver request to get Hillman back after he was cut by the Minnesota Vikings, but the Chargers had a higher priority. Denver cut Hillman prior to the start of the season.

Hillman’s best NFL days are behind him and he likely isn’t in the team’s future plans.

More from Bolt Beat

Grade: D

Andre Williams

2016 Statistics:

Carries: 18

Yards: 87

Yards Per Carry: 4.8

Touchdowns: 0

Andre Williams spent most of the season on the team’s practice squad after being released by the New York Giants after the preseason, and he is a player I like, as I stated here.

His 18-carry, 87-yard performance came in the final game of the season against the Chiefs, and I’m glad he was called up to the main roster to see what he could do.

A fourth-round pick of the Giants in 2014, Williams led the nation in rushing during his senior season at Boston College. Personally, I hope he’s part of the rotation next year as I feel he can add a power element to the running game that would be the perfect change of pace to what Gordon can do.

Grade: B-

Position Overall Grade: C+

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