Bolts Desperate to Fix Run Game

San Diego's most glaring problem through the first four weeks is its inability to run the football. The Bolts average just 2.4 yards per carry; no other team averages fewer than 3 yards. Mike McCoy and the coaching staff are doing everything in their power to rectify the issue, but in reality, they may be forced to wait for some players to get healthy.

The Chargers have an excuse for their struggling running game, as Ryan Mathews (MCL) and Danny Woodhead (ankle) are both out with injuries. But San Diego was supposed to be better prepared for this situation than any other team after signing Donald Brown to a three-year, $10.5 million contract in the offseason and drafting Marion Grice in the sixth round.

It hasn't played out that way.

"It's nowhere where it needs to be," Head Coach Mike McCoy said. "We'll continue to work at it and we've got to do a better job. Each player's got to look at himself first individually, and coaches, we've got to look at it and analyze what we're doing, how we're doing and who we're doing it with. But it's up to each individual, players and coaches, to figure out a way to get it done."

It it tough to imagine the Chargers fixing their running game this week. They host the New York Jets, who come to town with the league's best run defense (63.2 yards per game). Rex Ryan's team ranks a not-so-intimidating tenth against the pass, so it would make sense for McCoy to ride the hot arm of Philip Rivers and attack through the air.

After the Jets game, the Chargers play their first three divisional games: visiting the Raiders (in their first game under interim head coach Tony Sparano), returning to host the Chiefs and then traveling to Denver for a Thursday night matchup. It would be great to have the running game clicking by then, as that divisional gauntlet could make or break San Diego's chances of winning the AFC West.

Mathews should return from his knee injury at some point during that stretch, likely in time for the Week 7 game against the Chiefs. But according to McCoy, San Diego cannot wait for players to get healthy to get its run game on track.

“We have plenty of talent here,” McCoy said.  “We have plenty of talent to run the football. It's not talent at all, it's execution. We have to execute better.”

The Chargers will continue to tinker with their offensive line to find a combination that can do a better job of opening running lanes. The team has had a particularly difficult time running right, so the Chargers tried rotating Johnnie Troutman and third-round pick Chris Watt at right guard against the Jaguars with mixed results. If neither player solidifies the position, it could go back to Jeromey Clary when he comes off the PUP list, which could also happen at some point during San Diego's run of AFC West games.

While the Chargers wait on Mathews and Clary, they hope the imminent return of TE David Johnson, who missed last week's game with a shoulder injury, can offer a boost.

The team cannot afford to be patient. The Chargers must make hay during the early part of the schedule, because things get significantly tougher after Week 6.

Said McCoy: “There's going to come a game with a four-minute situation where you're going to want to run the football and we've just got to do better. No excuses about it.”

How can the Chargers fix the running game? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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