Will the running game be even better in 2008?

The Chargers backfield took some blows this off-season, losing Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal and top backup Michael Turner. Rookies Jacob Hester and Marcus Thomas will join with Darren Sproles to pick up the slack. Will this year's running back corps be stronger than last season? Or is a drop-off inevitable?

Looking to fill the holes in the backfield quickly, GM A.J. Smith drafted fullback-halfback hybrid Jacob Hester in the third round and power running back Marcus Thomas in the fifth round to complement LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles in the running back rotation.

Although Michael Turner was an integral member of San Diego's offense, averaging 5.5 yards per carry over the last four seasons, the numbers indicate the 2008 Chargers backfield will be even better than last season.

Turner averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season, the lowest average of his career. Darren Sproles, whose career per-carry average is 4.8 yards, is certainly capable of replacing those numbers as the team's top change-of-pace back.


RB Darren Sproles
Donald Miralle/Getty

When given the carries, Sproles can make big plays and accumulate big stats. When given 25 carries in Week 15 against the Detroit Lions, Sproles rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Sproles can score anywhere on the field, so giving him more carries will only make the offense more explosive.

One problem with Sproles is his size. At 5'6", 181 lbs., Sproles lacks the power-running style that is invaluable as the calendar turns to December. This is where Hester and Thomas can earn their keep.

Hester (225 lbs.) just came off an 1,100-yard senior season at LSU in which he accumulated 12 touchdowns. When he isn't assisting Andrew Pinnock with fullback responsibilities, Hester will be a great power runner and third-down back who can catch passes in the flat and move the chains.

"I'm not a flashy guy," Hester said. "I'm not going to wow you with this and that, but hopefully I can just come here and work hard and be a football player."

Thomas could be the sleeper of this year's offense. If there is an injury to L.T. or Sproles, Thomas will be immediately thrown into the mix. Thomas seems to share L.T.'s nose for the end zone, having scored 16 TDs in his senior season at UTEP.

According to his college running backs coach, Jeff Banks, that is how Thomas can immediately become a weapon for the Chargers.

"He (Thomas) has a talent of running through arm tackles and maneuvering through tight spaces. He flourishes when people are running at him from the outside in. He can overpower them and always end up falling forward. He certainly does have a real knack for the end zone."

Michael Turner's contributions to the offense will no doubt be missed. But with Hester and Thomas supplying the power and Sproles serving up big plays, San Diego's running game figures to be stronger than ever.


BoltsReport Top Stories

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