For a team to make a deep playoff run and even win a Super Bowl, it has to be able to spring a surprise on its opponents.
In this day and age in the NFL, scouting of opponents never stops so a team has to always try to be one step ahead. Having a player that can come in and change the complexion of a game is of the utmost importance. Just look at what James White meant to the New England Patriots last year. The same went for the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, who had Mohamed Sanu looking like a Pro Bowler.
As the Los Angeles Chargers prepare to surprise the league this year by becoming a contender, could their secret weapon be running back Kenjon Barner? Sean Tomlinson of Bleacher Report thinks so.
If Barner were to become anything more than a return specialist, he could very well be right.
Tomlinson is correct to point out the lack of depth behind Melvin Gordon at running back, but Barner is one of those guys who to this point, was a much better college player than he has been a pro.
Barner has never been given more than 28 carries in a season and has just 260 career rushing yards.
Though he still ranks third on Oregon’s all-time career rushing yardage list, he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft. Since then, he’s been used sparingly and may have been out of the league altogether if not for his former college coach, Chip Kelly, giving him a shot with the Philadelphia Eagles.
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So what do the Chargers see in Barner that almost no other team has?
The Chargers signed him to a one-year contract in March and the team may very well have plans for him beyond special teams. However, returning kicks has not been the team’s forte over the last several years either.
Maybe the Chargers see that Barner doesn’t have a lot of tread on his tires, so to speak. Maybe they feel he still possesses some of the elite speed and vision as a runner that made him so dangerous in college?
Whatever the case may be, the opportunity to make a splash as a backup running back will exist for several players in Los Angeles this year, including Barner. If he could somehow show enough to win the team’s primary backup job, he could certainly be considered a secret weapon.