The Chargers are heading into their fifth week with great poise and a record of 3-1 being led by the league’s leading MVP contender – Philip Rivers. They’ve been praised and dubbed Super Bowl contenders for their early season success, yet it’s no secret that the running game seems to continuously be struggling in each match up. Averaging only 2.4 yards a carry this year, and with only one rushing touchdown, gives them the distinction of almost last place for total rushing offense. The circling question of who is to blame can be debatable, yet the facts are pointing more toward the offensive line.
When it was announced that Ryan Mathews was going to be out 4-6 weeks due to injury, there was no question that Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead would step in nicely. However, that hasn’t gone as planned, forcing Tom Telesco to make a flood of active roster changes. Brown is now averaging 2.0 yards a game and 6.0 receiving yards. In hindsight, he is playing the role of both Mathews and Woodhead. Yet, how is a running back supposed to complete his job when he isn’t given the proper tools? Let me explain.
The offensive line has made an overflow of changes in just four games played. Nick Hardwick was placed on IR after the Arizona game which required the next center, Rich Ohrnberger, to step up. His performance hasn’t been stellar, yet he has been able to get the job done. However, after playing an incredibly physical game against Seattle, the Chargers found themselves digging for their third-string center to step in. With that said, every opponent that has played Seattle has lost their next matchup – until San Diego.
Already limited at the guard position, and no guaranteed timeline of when Jeromey Clary will be back, we’re left with two great pass blockers to hold the line – RT D.J Fluker and LT King Dunlap. In the last four games, the Chargers have played three of the league’s top 10 defenses: Arizona, Seattle and Buffalo. Keep in mind, Arizona ended last year with the number one ranked rush defense and Seattle’s defense crushed Denver in the Super Bowl with a 43-8 win.
Currently, the Chargers do not have the talent on the O-line to dominate the run game, which leaves the game dependent on Rivers’ throwing arm. With Brown having 50 rushing attempts and sharing the load with Oliver, it’s slowly wearing down each team that the Chargers play. This eventually tires the defensive line and opens up the passing game. It may not look too pretty in the boxscore, but the running game is serving its purpose.
Moving into week five versus the New York Jets, the Chargers will need a finely tuned game plan. Currently, the Jets rank #3 in total rushing defense, and #7 in total defense. These numbers are just as scary as going back into week one and two – in addition to an injury-ridden secondary. In order for the San Diego Chargers to defeat the Jets, the offensive line needs to step up big, open the gaps for the run, and hold firm for the entire game. Adding the way Rivers is connecting with his receivers and the defense’s continued success, there are no reasons as to why the Chargers can’t add another one to the win column.