From now until the start of training camp, we’ll preview each position for the San Diego Chargers. We continue with a breakdown of the running backs. The Bolts currently have seven on their roster: Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown, Marion Grice, Kerwynn Williams, Branden Oliver and fullback Zach Boren.
Mathews – Entering his fifth season, the physical, punishing running back aims to build off his finest season to date. The 6-0, 220-pound battering ram set career-highs a year ago in carries (285) and yards (1,255), while tying his career-high with seven touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving). Mathews’ 1,255 yards totaled the eighth best mark in franchise history, ranked seventh in the entire NFL, was the most by a Chargers running back since 2007 and was his second career 1,000 yard season. Mathews eclipsed 100 yards in a game six times in 2013, ranking second only behind LeSean McCoy. Over four seasons, Mathews has toted the rock 849 times for 3,371 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, along with 20 touchdowns. He’s also contributed through the air, catching 137 balls for 1,047 yards, including 26 receptions for 189 yards a year ago.
Woodhead – The versatile jack-of-all-trades was another Chargers running back to post a career year in 2013. Woodhead set a career high with 106 carries for 429 yards and two scores on the ground. However, he was especially lethal in the passing game, where he set career highs with 76 catches for 605 yards and six touchdowns. In fact, he finished the season just one catch behind Antonio Gates for the team lead. Woodhead also snared the most touchdown catches among all NFL running backs with the second most receptions and receiving yards. The 5-8,200-pounder was a beast in the playoffs as well, scoring his first career postseason rushing touchdown in Cincinnati in the Wild Card win over the Bengals. He finished the playoffs with a team-high 24 carries for 83 yards and a TD in addition to five catches for 24 yards. For his career, Woodhead has carried the ball 371 times for 1,692 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, with 12 touchdowns along with 176 receptions for 1,674 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Brown- The Bolts struck early in free agency to secure one of the best rushers on the market, agreeing to a late night deal with the dynamic Brown. General Manager Tom Telesco knows the 5-10, 207-pounder quite well, playing a prominent role in the Indianapolis Colts’ front office when they took him with the 27th overall pick. Over his first five seasons, Brown has carried the ball 551 times for 2,377 yards and 17 touchdowns. He averages 4.3 yards per carry and is known for ball security, having only one career fumble on his ledger. Brown is also a weapon in the passing game, posting 83 career receptions for 767 yards and two touchdowns. Much like Mathews and Woodhead, Brown’s 2014 campaign comes on the heels of his best NFL season. He averaged a career-high 5.3 yards per carry and scored a career-high six rushing touchdowns in 2013. Overall, Brown had 102 carries for 537 yards while catching a career-high 27 passes for 214 yards and two touchdown receptions. In the playoffs, he toted the rock 28 times for 118 yards and one rushing touchdown along with five catches for 50 yards and one touchdown reception.
Grice – With three potent rushers already on the roster, some outside of Chargers Park were surprised the Bolts drafted Grice in the sixth round this past May. However, Telesco has always vowed to take the best available player, and the Chargers feel like they did just that by adding the Arizona State running back. The 6-0, 208-pounder is a touchdown machine, recording 39 TDs in his 24-game ASU career. Equally important, he never lost a fumble in 406 touches. Grice proved his versatility in 2013, carrying the ball 191 times in 2013 for 996 yards and 14 touchdowns, catching 50 balls for 438 yards and six touchdowns and returning 21 kickoffs for 507 yards. In the process he became the only player in the country to surpass the 400-yard mark in each of those categories. Overall, Grice averaged 176.5 all-purpose yards per game, ranking third in the nation.
Williams – The 5-8, 200-pound product from Utah State joined the Bolts practice squad in the middle of the season, spending valuable time within the system. Williams was initially a seventh-round pick in 2013 by the Colts. He appeared in one game for them prior to being released, returning one kickoff for 28 yards.
Oliver – The Bolts added the 5-8, 203-pound rookie out of Buffalo in late May after a standout senior season. Oliver ran 310 times for 1,535 yards and 15 touchdowns, becoming the Buffalo Bulls all-time leading rusher. He finished his career with 866 carries for 4,049 yards and 33 touchdowns. A two-time first team All-MAC selection, he was named the conference's offensive player of the week three times last year.
Boren – The former Ohio State star agreed to a futures contact with the Chargers on Jan. 7, and is the only fullback currently on the roster. The 6-0, 255-pounder was in training camp with the Houston Texans a year ago and brings a physical presence to the backfield.