The topic of debate that has been a mainstay this season in Charger camp has been the running game. Fans have expressed their frustration with oft-injured Mathews, the UFDA Oliver and the 10-million dollar Brown. Every Facebook post, Tweet or article which spurns this discussion often has a few replies regarding the offensive line; I being one of them. Ever since my interview with Branden Oliver I have been one of his biggest fans; to this day I still believe he can be a featured back. My alliance with Ryan Mathews continues as well. I have often stated openly how any RB that was drafted to replace LT, a Charger legend, was going to be strongly criticized unless they produced those same HOF numbers. So with this much talent in the backfield, why are the Bolts not producing on the ground?
Every football fan is now fully aware of our offensive line woes – injuries and ineffectiveness. Some have even commented that regardless of what back we have, there is no room to run. Sure, great running backs create their own lanes. However, they need to have a chance to create those lanes. When they are handed the ball and look up to see a team portrait of the Broncos defense, explain to me what running back would gain positive yards.
In looking at the numbers of the Chargers running game, it wasn’t the productivity of each running back per say; comparing numbers of Mathews, Oliver and Brown. It was where they ran the ball. I started noticing a trend after Oliver dismantled the then #1 rush defense of the Jets, and where he ran to get the majority of his yardage.
Standing 6’9” and 330 pounds, King Dunlap was a steal from the Philadelphia Eagles. All sorts of negativity spawned upon his arrival; how many times he’s been injured and that he isn’t all that good. Quarterback Philip Rivers has something to say about the King.
“He’s been awesome,” Rivers said. “I wouldn’t know what kind of credit he’s getting on the outside. I know how much we appreciate him on the inside. To play left tackle against who we’ve gone against all year, he’s playing awesome.”
“A guy like that, left tackles aren’t just walking around, a dime a dozen. Thank goodness we got him two years ago.” – per Michael Gehlken of UT San Diego.
In Mr. Gehlken’s article about King Dunlap, he mentions that #77 has only given up 3 sacks this year. Rivers has been sacked 29 times if that helps put it into perspective. The more astonishing statistics comes from the backfield and when the run play calls to veer left.
Pulling the numbers of Mathews, Oliver and D. Brown, it shows that when the run play is called to the left, the Chargers gain 4.6 yards per carry. To the right side? The average yard per carry diminishes to the likes of 2.9. When the Bolt backs run up the middle, they gain an average of 3.3 yards per carry. Right side?!?!…..you are the weakest link.
Breaking down the numbers ever more, a run play to the left-end, meaning around Dunlap, equates to an astronomical clip of 6.18 yards per carry. The next highest average would be to run at the LT King himself, where the backs are averaging 3.91 yards a carry. Of course needing something to compare those numbers to, we can look at how effective the Chargers run towards the right side of the line. In this scenario, the best chance for success is running at our RT DJ Fluker, where the backs average 3.7 yards per carry. However, running to the right-end (2.6 yds/carry) or the RG position (2.5 yds/carry) has not profited well.
The Chargers have the weapons to be a lethal offensive unit that is well-balanced. It is true with every team, of course, that becoming one-dimensional is not successful in the NFL; especially in the playoffs. Even though in the 4th quarter of the San Francisco game proved otherwise, with only one rushing play called, the Bolts can ill afford to rely solely on the arm of Rivers. With Mathews, Oliver and D. Brown running the rock towards the kingdom of victory, the path of least resistance goes through the King himself.