As we near the start of training camp on July 30, we'll preview each position for the San Diego Chargers. We continue with a look at the Running Backs.
Melvin Gordon –Gordon has had the start of training camp circled since he was placed on the reserve-injured list last December. Much has been said about the running back entering his second season following a rookie year he admitted fell short of expectations. Even though he led the Bolts with 641 yards, the former Doak Walker Award winner as college's top running back knows everything he does will be put under a microscope. However, the 6-1, 211-pound rusher said he doesn't feel pressure heading into 2016, but rather expects to showcase his combination of power, patience and athleticism as a more seasoned rusher.
Danny Woodhead –The ultimate jack-of-all-trades returns for his fourth season in America's Finest City. Woodhead bounced back from a lost 2014 season without showing any rust last year, leading all NFL running backs in receptions (80), receiving yards (755) and touchdown catches (six). The ninth-year vet figures to play a similar role in 2016 as a trusted weapon out of the backfield as well as rushing the rock.
Branden Oliver–As quiet off the field as he is physical on it, Oliver will once again be relied upon as a punishing runner in the Bolts' rushing attack. Training camp marks his return to action after a toe injury suffered in Baltimore ended his season after only eight games. The 5-8, 208-pound former undrafted free agent is a load to bring down, often delivering his own punishment on would-be tacklers. Watch for the way his feet never stop moving as he has a knack for gaining an extra couple yards after contact.
Dreamius Smith – A big rusher at 5-11, 225-pounds, Running Backs Coach Ollie Wilson praises Smith for having impressive quickness and explosion for a player his size. While Gordon, Woodhead and Oliver appear set ahead of him in the rotation, Smith will also look to prove his worth on special teams to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
Kenneth Farrow –Similar to Smith, Farrow knows he must excel on special teams to earn his spot. Still, the undrafted free agent out of Houston flashed throughout the offseason program, as his biggest challenge will be adjusting to the speed of the NFL game.
Derek Watt –The Chargers selected the fullback out of Wisconsin in the sixth round who boasts unique athleticism for the position. Lauded for his instincts and ability to dissect a defense to break open a lane, he is also a weapon in the passing game possessing soft hands out of the backfield.
*Chris Swain- *"The Swain Train" heads to San Diego as the versatile undrafted free agent out of Navy looks to earn a spot on the Chargers. A powerful tailback in college, he rushed for 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior last year. Now, the Bolts aim to transition him into a fullback, so his progression to a new position is worth charting.
Keep an Eye On…
Ricky Henne: The running game as a whole is something everyone will keep a close eye on throughout training camp and the preseason. After struggling to pound the rock the last two seasons, it is imperative the offense is able to consistently churn out yards on the ground in all types of situations. As he works his way back from injury, every cut Melvin Gordon makes will be looked at with a close eye. However, I'm most interested in watching Derek Watt and Chris Swain. The Chargers haven't had a true fullback since 2013, so I'm eager to see how the team works both players into the offense as they each aim to earn a roster spot.
Hayley Elwood: Seeing members of the running back corps take the field is always one of the most fun parts about training camp. I'm looking forward to the returns of Branden Oliver and Melvin Gordon after both were placed on reserve-injured last season. Undrafted rookie free agent Kenneth Farrow out of Houston also showed flashes during mini camp, so it will be interesting to chart his progress moving forward as well.