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Minus Mathews, Running Backs Ready to Step Up
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When it was announced that Ryan Mathews would miss four-to-six weeks with a broken clavicle, one name automatically popped into Chargers fans’ minds.
And while yes, the versatile veteran will receive additional touches until Mathews returns, head coach Norv Turner reiterated today that every last one of the team’s running backs will step up and play an important role in the Pro Bowler’s absence.
“Obviously we are not going to have Ryan for a while, so we are working a lot of different guys,” he said. “And every guy we have back there brings a different strength to the table. Ronnie Brown is an experienced player who is very multitalented. He does a lot of things well. Jackie Battle is a very physical inside runner. We got a look at Curtis Brinkley as he had most of the carries the other night. I’m excited about him. He’s done well in games for us. And then we also have the young backs (Edwin Baker and Michael Hayes), and these guys are going to get a lot of work over the next month, and I’m excited to watch them grow.”
Brown, a seven-year veteran, has had the most accomplished career out of the players Turner named. The 6-foot-0, 230-pound tailback has averaged 4.2 yards per carry for 4,951 rushing yards and 37 rushing touchdowns over his career. He’s also adept in the passing game where has caught 184 balls for an 8.1 average and a pair of touchdowns. While Mathews will certainly be missed, Brown is more than capable of not only filling in, but excelling in a more prominent role in the offense.
“Right now the expectations are still the same and we’ve got to fill in and do our part,” Brown said after practice. “When they signed me, my expectations were to come in and help in any kind of role I could. And right now, it’s to come in and not miss a beat on offense. That’s their expectations and that’s my expectations and I’m looking forward to it.”
Another player to watch out for is Le’Ron McClain, the bruising fullback brought in this offseason who may also see additional carries with Mathews out.
“Le’Ron is our fullback, and he’s a physical presence,” said Turner. “There are some things we like with him in the running game, and we are going to give him the chance to get some work in there.”
While he will be involved in rushing the ball every now and then, McClain will remain primarily at fullback where he is one of the best in the entire league at creating holes for the runners behind him.
“I’m staying locked in to my fullback position,” he said. “We’ve got some great backs in Ronnie and Battle and Brinkley. Plus there are the two young guys. So I’m just going to do what I do and whenever my opportunity comes I am going to take advantage of it.”
Mathews should return relatively early in the season, and according to McClain, the expectations for a standout season from the third-year pro remain the same.
“You don’t want to have an injury at all, but I’m glad he got it out of the way now. He’ll be back shortly, and like I told him this is just a small hurdle and he’ll get over it. When he gets healthy, we’re still going for that rushing title. Everything on the up and up, I’m looking forward to getting him back here. In due time he’ll be back out here working, but until then we have guys ready to step up and not miss a beat.”
Quick Hits Read
- With Charlie Whitehurst practicing fully, the team granted Kevin O’Connell’s request to be released.
- Newly signed Anthony Davis and Michael Toudouze practiced for the first time.
- Jarret Johnson and Roscoe Parrish returned to the field after missing a few days due to injury.
- Both Eric Weddle and Nate Kaeding sat out today’s session. Weddle needed a day to rest a hip situation while Kaeding was dealing with a death in the family.
- Antonio Garay left practice early with an apparent leg injury.
- The team ran a few wildcat plays with Micheal Spurlock taking the snap.
- Shareece Wright batted a quick pass into the backfield right into Whitehurst’s hands, who caught it and started running.
- Philip Rivers hit Robert Meachem on a deep ball for a touchdown.
- Rivers picked up where he left off with Antonio Gates following Thursday’s touchdown, connecting with the All-Pro tight end numerous times during practice.
- Vincent Brown made a full extension diving catch up the right sideline for a gain of 40 yards.
- Quentin Jammer elevated to intercept a deep 50-yard bomb near the end zone.
- Le’Ron McClain made some nifty moves after catching a pass out of the backfield.
- Jarrett Lee hit Mike Willie for a 35-yard touchdown.
- Curtis Brinkley hauled in a catch by diving and pinning it against his shoulder on a quick pass up the middle.
- Sunday marks the last open practice of the season. We hope to see you at Chargers Park.