Running back options for the Los Angeles Chargers
By Louis Gorini
It is the middle of free agency, and the Los Angeles Chargers still have plenty of roster holes to fill. One of their most glaring but unpublicized needs is at the running back position.
Yes, in Melvin Gordon, the Chargers have finally found their workhorse running back that has eluded them for so many years.
However, outside of Gordon, Los Angeles has a bunch of practice squad players (Kenneth Farrow and Andre Williams) backing up their star running back. That is not exactly encouraging, especially since Gordon has ended his first two years in the NFL on IR due to injuries. The Chargers lost Danny Woodhead to the Baltimore Ravens and did not re-sign Branden Oliver this past offseason.
Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles’ new head coach, has publicly stated that he believes in using multiple running backs throughout the course of a game. And with his extensive experience with the running back position, Lynn is ultimately going to look into free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft to add much-needed depth behind Gordon. Here are some options Lynn could entertain to help strengthen the Chargers’ running game.
Jan 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) rushes with the football during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Minnesota won 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Vikings just signed former Raiders running back Latavius Murray to be their next featured running back. Adrian Peterson’s tenure with the Vikings is all but over. Factor in the recent signing of Eddie Lacy by the Seattle Seahawks, and Peterson is running out of options. The 32-year-old vet could look to the Chargers to help stop this game of musical running backs.
This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Peterson does have some ties to the Chargers, as he has trained with Gordon the last two offseasons. And Los Angeles would actually be a good scheme for Peterson to succeed. Like Gordon, Peterson is most successful when he is running from the “dot”as opposed to a shotgun formation.
It is no secret that Gordon has mirrored his style of play off of Peterson. They are both physical, north/south runners who hit the hole hard. Peterson would not be a change-of-pace back, but more of a continuation of the physical running style Lynn wants to implement. In addition, he would also be a good mentor/influence on Gordon. Lastly, the former Vikings’ running back has never played with a quarterback of the caliber of Philip Rivers. So as long as Peterson is OK with the notion of coming off the bench, he can finally end this game of running back roulette and focus on being a part of a dominant offense.
The veteran running back market is brutal this year. With a loaded running back class in the draft, current free agents are really feeling the pinch and are getting desperate to find work.
Oct 11, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) is tackled by Chicago Bears outside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds (52) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Chicago won the game 18-17. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Not even greats like Jamaal Charles are immune to this sobering reality. Charles, like Peterson, is another aging superstar running back that is currently looking for employment.
Los Angeles has the opportunity to sign a productive player coming from a division rival. Adding Charles would be ideal for the Chargers as he could provide them with a change-of-pace running back. Because of his elite route running and receiving skills, Charles could step in nicely on third downs and passing situations to be another weapon for Rivers. Obtaining Charles will help fill that check down void left by the departing Woodhead.
Nov 12, 2016; Reno, NV, USA; San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey (19) runs for a first down in the first quarter of their NCAA football game with the Nevada Wolf Pack at MacKay Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
Lynn can forgo signing a veteran running back and look to the NFL draft to add some running back depth. If Lynn is in fact looking for a contrasting style of play from Gordon and wants to focus on a change-of-pace/offensive weapon threat, then he should look no further than San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey.
Pumphrey maybe small in stature (5-8, 176 lbs.), but he makes up for it with his blazing speed (4.48 40-yard dash). The former Aztec running back displays superior route-running skills and is a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers. During his college career, Pumphrey showed superb hands as he caught 99 passes for 1,039 receiving yards. However, don’t be fooled, as Pumphrey is not just a scat back that is only useful on passing downs. Pumphrey used his excellent elusiveness to lead the nation with 2,133 rushing yards on 349 carries and 17 touchdowns. Lynn would have a field day utilizing Pumphrey’s skill set as a special teams returner, third-down back and even as a between the tackle rusher. Think of Pumphrey as the perfect combination of Woodhead and Darren Sproles.
Nov 19, 2016; Lawrence, KS, USA; Texas Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman (33) jumps over Kansas Jayhawks linebacker Mike Lee (11) at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports
Lynn could be looking for more of a banger than a change-of-pace running back to complement Gordon. If he is looking for a physical runner that could help Gordon grind out games, then he should look no further than D’onta Foreman. The former Texas Longhorn comes in at 6-0, 233lbs. and has shown the ability to handle a full workload.
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As you can see from above, Foreman has outstanding athleticism given his massive size. He is a bruising runner who displays adequate finesse to his game to avoid tacklers. In his junior year, Foreman carried the ball a whopping 323 times for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns. The only knock on him is his ineffectiveness in the passing game. Foreman had only 13 receptions in college and was a complete liability in pass protection.
Perhaps Lynn sees Gordon as more of a complete back and will use him more on passing downs and third downs and then roll out Foreman on earlier downs to give Gordon a breather. That could be what Lynn was discussing with Foreman when they met together at the NFL Scouting Combine.
There you have it, Chargers fans. If you had your choice, who would you want Los Angeles to bring in this offseason to help their running game? Sound off below if you want one of the running backs mentioned above, or if you have your eye on someone else.