Is running back position up to snuff?

The Chargers have already acquired or re-signed three running backs. Ronnie Brown returns as the No. 2 back; Danny Woodhead comes in as the new scat back; and Fozzy Whittaker offers upside and special teams ability. Two questions remain: 1) is Tom Telesco done addressing the position? and 2) has he done enough?

Backup running back is a vital position, especially in San Diego. Ryan Mathews has missed 10 games in his three seasons and has a fumbling habit (an average of four per season) that makes him a doghouse regular. He also struggles in pass protection, which makes him a virtual non-factor on third downs.

Enter Danny Woodhead, a traditional third-down back who has averaged more than 30 catches per season since 2010. He has great suddenness and acceleration, making him surprisingly tough to bring down despite his diminutive frame (5 foot 8, 200 lbs). He is also a determined and technically sound pass protector, meaning he can stay in and block a linebacker or leak out as a dangerous check-down target.

Mike McCoy will use Woodhead in a variety of ways, including at wide receiver so he can exploit mismatches in the short passing game, something McCoy did often in Denver. Ken Whistenhunt also has plenty of ideas for Woodhead; Whistenhunt had a similar player in Arizona in LaRod Stephens-Howling.


RB Ronnie Brown
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The Chargers also brought back Ronnie Brown on a one-year deal. This is an underrated move, because Brown was a key contributor in 2012. He caught a career-high 49 passes and averaged 4.8 ypc, his best average since 2007. He lacks the between-the-tackles effectiveness to be a starter, even on a short-term basis, but he has plenty to offer as part of a rotation.

Fozzy Whittaker can do a little bit of everything, including returning kicks, but he is likely competing for a spot on the practice squad.

Is this group good enough to boost a running game that ranked No. 27 in 2012? Woodhead is certainly an upgrade over Jackie Battle, who averaged less than 3 ypc in 10 of the 14 games in which he received at least one carry. More is also expected of Mathews, who had more broken clavicles (two) than touchdowns (one) and 100-yard games (none) combined.

However, a power element remains glaringly absent. Perhaps that could come from fullback Le'Ron McClain, a bruising runner who has a 900-yard season to his credit. Too bad that was five years ago and he has less than 60 carries over the last three seasons combined.

It is likely new GM Tom Telesco will add another running back in the draft, ideally one who runs with power and can contribute on special teams. If Arkansas' Knile Davis is available in the fourth round, he will be tempting.

Hopefully Telesco has better luck finding a running back in the middle to later rounds than his predecessor, as A.J. Smith gets credit for the careers of Marcus Thomas ('08), Gartrell Johnson ('09), Jordan Todman ('11) and Edwin Baker ('12). Those four have less than 100 career rushing yards combined.



How much of an impact will Woodhead make? Discuss inside the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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