After another embarrassing loss in which the Chargers floundered in the final minutes of the game, one statistic stood out to me among the others: 38 yards rushing.
That means that the Bolts averaged less than 10 yards rushing per quarter, or the equivalent of one first down on the ground per quarter.
Needless to say, in the name of a balanced offense, that is absolutely pathetic.
It is one thing to be a pass-heavy offense, but to only be able to muster less than 40 yards in an entire NFL game is unacceptable.
When breaking down the rushing totals from the first four weeks of the season, the Chargers started off hot on the ground in Week 1 and Week 2, gaining 155 and 150 yards on the ground, respectively.
The last two weeks have been quite the opposite, as the Bolts have only gained 37 and 38 yards in the last two weeks.
- @Kansas City 155 yards
- vs. Jacksonville 150 yards
- @Indianapolis 37 yards
- vs. New Orleans 38 yards
When adding the rushing totals from the prior two weeks, you get exactly half of their total output in ground-accumulated yards as they achieved in Week 2.
Again, that is not exactly a recipe for success.
The initial 2016 backfield depth chart of Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver and Kenneth Farrow has morphed into Gordon, the newly acquired Dexter McCluster and Farrow, due to season-ending injuries to Woody and BO.
Though second-year ball carrier Gordon has found the endzone six times thus far in his sophomore campaign, the young running back seems to be forgotten in the gameplan once the Chargers reach the second half of games in 2016.
The team must find a way to reestablish its running game, getting Gordon more of that much-needed confidence.
It goes without saying, San Diego must alleviate some of the pressure that is riding on the right arm of quarterback Philip Rivers.
Injuries, something we as Chargers fans are far too familiar with, along the offensive line have certainly not helped provide continuity in the rushing attack.
The Bolts dressed eight offensive lineman on Sunday, and all eight of them saw playing time, including three different players manning the left tackle spot.
As much as we’d all like to see Gordon become the bell-cow back who justifies the team moving up in the first round of the 2015 draft to select, he may not be that guy in the NFL like he was in college at Wisconsin. That being said, the team should sit down and reevaluate what they want to do with the former Badger.
The Chargers will travel to Oakland in Week 5 to take on the Raiders. Oakland currently ranks 31st against the run, giving up 134.5 yards per game.
It would be a mistake to not try to take advantage of a rushing defense that is next to last in the league, but it all depends which Chargers’ defense shows up come the opening whistle.
Though the Raiders had — on paper — what many would consider to be a strong offseason, their defense has struggled mightily, allowing 460 total yards per game.
Although I would love to see Rivers sling it all over O.Co Coliseum, establishing a formidable ground attack should be at the top of the docket for the Chargers as they prepare for Week 5.
Dave Booga Peters
Before you get out the torches and pitchforks and start hunting me down, allow me to explain how Danny Woodhead’s knee injury could actually be used as a positive from this point on. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Danny. He is a very good running back; extremely valuable as a runner, a receiver, and a blocker for Philip Rivers. He has had a fine career with the Chargers and I am sad to see him lost for the season. I know what you are thinking. “If he is so good, how can his injury be a positive for the team?” Allow me to explain.
With losing Woodhead for the season, Head Coach Mike McCoy and Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will be forced to become better, more aggressive coaches. If you watched the week one game against the Chiefs, you saw that the play calling was completely differently in the second half than in the first. In the first half, the 2015 first round draft pick Melvin Gordon was given the bulk of the load and pounded the ball down the field. Twice he even got into the end zone. He looked like a completely different back than he was last year.
In the second half, Gordon’s role essentially vanished. Woodhead’s number was called upon for almost the entire second half. Why Woodhead? Because he is trustworthy. Coach McCoy remembers the fumble issues that Gordon had last season and did not want to risk a turnover in a game where the Chargers had a big lead. So, Gordon to the bench and Woodhead on the field; playing a role that does not suit him — the “every down back”.
Delayed draws out of the shotgun formation became the play of the half as they went with it time and time again. Although Woodhead was able to move the ball fairly successfully for much of the half, he was unable to punch it into the end zone. His presence did not make the defense fear the run, so pass coverage tightened up and pressure on Rivers picked up as well – a bad combination to say the least. We all know how that game turned out. McCoy and Whisenhunt played timid, cautious offense in an attempt not to lose. This plan did not work and KC made it all the way back to win the game in overtime.
Let’s move to last week’s game against what most people consider a team going in the right direction, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Again, Gordon started out getting the majority of the carries and punished the Jaguars’ defense play after play. Woodhead was doing what he does best. He was basically a third down back who can protect the quarterback and catch outlet passes out of the backfield. Unfortunately, one of those passes lead to his knee giving out, tragically ending his season.
Melvin Gordon, that’s what! McCoy and Whisenhunt had no real choice but to keep Gordon in the game, even with a big lead, and letting him pound the rock. He continued his effective play and actually tallied his first 100 yard rushing game in his short NFL career. Oh, and by the way, he hasn’t fumbled yet! That second half should go far as to gaining trust from the coaches moving forward.
As long as Gordon stays healthy, there is no reason to believe that he cannot be trusted to keep defenses honest and take a lot of pressure off of Rivers. If Melvin continues to be as effective as he has started out, this could be a classic story of someone going from goat to hero in one season. A story that might never have been told if Woodhead was still there to allow McCoy and company to play it safe.
Of course this goes without saying, but Gordon can’t play every snap for the entire game. That would be asking to get him hurt. So who else can step in to give Gordon a breather? Let’s take a look:
Kenneth Farrow: Farrow had a very nice preseason and earned his way on the roster. With Woodhead’s injury forcing him on the field against Jacksonville, Farrow carried the ball four times for a total of 13 yards. Not an earth shattering debut, but it is a very small sample size. What fans need to remember is that the impressive numbers he put up in the preseason were against second and third string defenders; running vanilla game plans. If he gets the call, he would be facing the best of every opponent. The sledding will be a lot more difficult. Time will tell if the Bolts have a player in Farrow.
Andre Williams: Personally, I’m excited to see what this kid can do. He is a strong, bruising back who can get the short yards that are so important on third downs and late in the game. Last season his production tailed off significantly which is why the Giants let him go. Before that, however, he had a good rookie campaign. The team from America’s finest city is hoping that the Giants made a mistake and will catch lightning in a bottle.
Dexter McCluster: McCluster is the guy the Chargers brought in to replace Woodhead; capable as a runner and receiver. He is also a solid kickoff and punt returner. He is fast on his feet and so quick that he often makes people miss. Obviously, he has not played at the level of a Danny Woodhead, or he would not have been cut by the Chiefs and the Titans. My hope is that he will play as a full-time kick returner so that starting wide receiver, Travis Benjamin, can give up that position and avoid unnecessary collisions. With Keenan Allen out for the season, it is vital that Benjamin stays healthy.
This week, the Chargers play the league’s 32nd ranked defense against the run – the Indianapolis Colts. This is another golden opportunity for Gordon and company to get many carries and gain even more confidence. We have to face the facts: Danny Woodhead is done for the year. He is also on the last year of his contract, which means that there is a very good possibility he will not be back with the team next season. The Bolts need to learn how to call plays and win games without the trustworthy, scrappy Woodhead. If they can do that, his injury will go down as the reason San Diego left the ranks of pretenders and became true contenders.
Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments below, I’ll get back to you ASAP. Go Bolts!!
In order to help fill the void in the San Diego running back group due to the season-ending injuries of Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver, the Chargers are set to sign former Tennessee Titans running back Dexter McCluster, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
To help replace Danny Woodhead, Chargers plan to sign former Titans and Chiefs RB Dexter McCluster, per source. https://t.co/zihxSgd4zt
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 20, 2016
McCluster, 28, has experience playing with Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who coached him in Tennessee. Due to his time with Whiz, he shouldn’t have a hard time getting the playbook and his duties on track very quickly.
During his six years spent with the Titans and Kansas City Chiefs, McCluster has rushed for 1,040 yards and two touchdowns. As a receiver out of the backfield or in the slot on some occasions, the seven-year veteran has tallied 229 receptions for 1,957 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has solid experience as a returner, returning three punts for touchdowns over his career.
Though he is not Danny Woodhead, McCluster provides a decent fill-in for the 2016 campaign.
This signing would give the Bolts this depth chart at running back: Melvin Gordon, Andre Williams, Kenneth Farrow and McCluster (I must admit that it really hurts not typing in Woodhead and Oliver there).
Dave Booga Peters
After losing wide receiver Keenan Allen to a torn ACL in Week 1, the Chargers have additionally lost running back Danny Woodhead to the same injury, a torn ACL in his right knee, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
#Chargers RB Danny Woodhead has torn his ACL, source said. His MRI just came back. He’s out for the season. Bad blow.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 19, 2016
This comes as a huge blow to the San Diego offense, who has already lost the aforementioned Allen, veteran wideout Stevie Johnson, running back Branden Oliver and tight end Jeff Cumberland.
Though the team trounced the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 38-14 on White Hot Sunday, the loss of Woodhead adds to the litany of injuries this offense has already suffered.
In 2015, Woody led all NFL running backs in receptions and receiving yards. He was also San Diego’s leader in both categories.
Woodhead, 31, missed most of the 2014 season with a broken fibula. Entering what will be his 10th season in 2017, Danny has rushed for 2181 yards and 15 touchdowns, while catching 267 passes for 2,498 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was also averaging 6.1 yards per carry prior to the injury.
The staff at BoltBlitz.com would like to extend its thoughts and prayers to one of our favorite players of all-time, Danny Woodhead.
Get well soon, Woody!
Dave Booga Peters
Many would argue that the fourth preseason game is unnecessary and usually only features those players who won’t make the cut. Sometimes, though, a player makes a name for himself in that “meaningless” game. For the Chargers, that player is running back Kenneth Farrow.
The Chargers struggled last year in the running game. Rookie running back Melvin Gordon had a disappointing year. Danny Woodhead did very well as a receiving option out of the backfield, but is not an every-down back. Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, the fans watched in disbelief as Branden Oliver suffered a terrible Achilles injury. He is now out for the season after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
In an attempt to fill Oliver’s position, the Chargers claimed Gus Johnson off of waivers from the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. This move was made before Farrow was able to continue to show what he could do after missing the second and third preseason games.
Farrow was an undrafted free agent from the University of Houston. At 5-foot-9 and 219 pounds, the 23-year-old had a good college career, churning out 2,975 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns. He was also the captain of the Cougars for his last three years of college.
In the first exhibition game, Farrow had a decent game. He rushed for 60 yards on 16 attempts, adding two receptions for 25 yards, including a 17-yard catch. This was a positive as the Chargers tend to us their running backs in passing situations.
Farrow surprised Bolt fans after a less-than-stellar performance by the ground game in the first half of the last preseason game. In seven attempts, he had 63 yards and one touchdown. The play which had the most excitement was his 44-yard run in the third quarter. He was tackled within the five-yard line. Then, on first-and-goal, he ran it in for a touchdown.
Farrow was playing against the third-string Niners’ defense, but he made some great moves en route to a solid performance. He showed confidence and made good decisions for a rookie. Farrow was able to beat out the aforementioned Gus Johnson to make the roster as the third running back.
As much as I will miss seeing Oliver in action, I am excited to see what the rookie has to offer. He is a little bigger than Oliver, so hopefully he can bulldoze through defenses and get those much-needed yards in the rushing attack.
With the addition of former Giant back Andre Williams, the Chargers should have a formidable running game as long as the offensive line can stay healthy and do its job.
It is difficult to know what Farrow’s role will be in 2016, but he will be called upon to contribute until Williams gets up to speed.
It would be great to look back on this article and realize that the Bolts indeed did find their next undrafted free-agent gem; this time at the running back position.
Thanks for reading!
When Branden Oliver left Sunday’s game with an obvious Achilles injury, Bolts fans, as well as the team, were faced with the question of who would fill in for the third-year back.
Monday, that query was answered when it was announced by chargers.com that the team had claimed running back Gus Johnson off of the waiver wire from the Atlanta Falcons.
Johnson is a 5-foot-10, 215-pound running back (Stephen F. Austin) who went undrafted in 2015. He was initially signed by the Dallas Cowboys and spent time on their practice squad until he was released and subsequently picked up by the Falcons. In two preseason games with Atlanta, Johnson collected 60 yards on 14 rushing attempts (five for first downs) with zero touchdowns.
The Chargers currently have Kenneth Farrow (5-foot-9, 219 lbs) as the only depth behind ball carriers Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead as the team just stated via chargers.com that Dreamius Smith was waived on Tuesday.
Farrow’s preseason numbers are 16 rushes for 60 yards with five of his runs ending as first downs. Though the former University of Houston (2016) back did not see any on-field participation against the Vikings on Sunday, it could be that his stature, being so similar to Oliver’s (5-foot-7, 208 lbs), may have swayed the coaches into Farrow still being on the roster.
It looks like Thursday’s preseason game against the 49ers will determine who ends up taking the No. 3 spot in the starting running back rotation.
In the meantime, welcome Gus Johnson to the San Diego Chargers.
Thanks for reading!
Today, Boltblitz continues to spotlight more of the names on the 90-man roster unfamiliar to the casual San Diego Chargers fan. Kenneth Farrow is a 5’10”, 219-pound running back out of the University of Houston. He was signed after the 2016 NFL Draft as an undrafted free agent and we’ll see him on the field competing for a roster spot when camp opens in two short weeks.
Farrow only missed one game in his four seasons at Houston. Each passing season his star continued to rise. Each of his first three seasons his carries, attempts, yards, yards per game and touchdowns increased. There was a slight dip in his totals during his senior season but that can also be attributed to the fact he played in one less game. In his career at Houston, Farrow averaged five yards or more per carry each season and had a run of 40-yards or more each season.
All tolled, Farrow logged 560 carries for 2,980 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was also a good hand catching the ball out of the backfield as he hauled in 74 passes for 560 yards and three touchdowns. Farrow showed he is a locker room and field leader as in each of his last three seasons he was voted a team captain.
At the UH Pro Day, Farrow posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.59 seconds, a vertical jump of 38-inches and a broad jump of 10 feet, 2 inches. He also showed impressive strength by doing 23 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press. His vertical and cone drill times would have ranked third among running backs at the NFL Combine.
Take a look at this impressive highlight reel from his junior year in which he ran for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The San Diego Chargers could use the backfield depth with Melvin Gordon coming off microfracture surgery in January. Farrow looks to be an excellent blend of size and speed with above-average field vision and the ability to make tacklers miss as well as break tackles. At Houston, Farrow showed he is an every down back.
If something happens to Gordon or the knee is slow to get back to 100%, Danny Woodhead is not an every down running back. Branden Oliver would be the next man up to assume that role. With one impressive training camp and preseason Farrow could install himself into that mix. There is a spot to be claimed. Farrow should have ample opportunity to take advantage.
Follow Kenneth on Twitter: @F_A_R_R_O_W_
Good luck Mr. Farrow.
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers will be keeping a watchful eye on many positions during camp over the next three months. Many perceived improvements have been made, but as with any team relying on an influx of high-upside yet inexperienced talent, the truth will be revealed once the helmet and pads are donned.
One of the most closely watched positions will be at running back. It was revealed two weeks ago that Melvin Gordon had microfracture surgery on his left knee in January. Gordon is expected to be a full participant when the Chargers begin their full training camp in July. A heavy weight sits on Gordon’s shoulders to be the franchise running back the Bolts traded up to acquire in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Behind a patchwork offensive line that endured 25 lineup changes throughout the course of the year due to injury and inconsistency, Gordon found little room to run. On the year, Gordon compiled 181 carries for 641 yards and 33 receptions for 192 yards. A concern that arose during the season was ball security as Gordon fumbled six times (five fumbles on runs, one fumbled reception). Mathematically, that translates to one fumble every 36 touches.
Almost equally as disturbing is the fact Gordon did not find the end zone once during his rookie season. That can be attributed to the offensive line woes and an offensive running scheme he was ill-equipped to excel in. Gordon set NCAA records at Wisconsin running in a traditional Power-I formation with a lead fullback opening the first hole. Last season, then Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich plugged Gordon into his pistol formation and ignored the recipe that made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.
This season Reich is gone and in his place is Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator the last time San Diego made the playoffs in 2012. A return to a running scheme Gordon can thrive in has been a priority and it became very evident when the Chargers selected fullback Derek Watt with one of their sixth-round picks in last month’s NFL Draft. Watt was Gordon’s fullback at Wisconsin, leading the way for Gordon to lead the nation in rushing his senior season. The selection of Watt sends a message to Gordon and the Chargers’ faithful that a return to power football is at hand.
One more positive sign for Gordon is the fact that despite the offense’s constant state of flux, he still had six runs of 20 yards or more. His yards per game (45), yards per carry average (3.5) and touchdowns can be expected to improve significantly this season.
All eyes will be on Gordon’s knee in training camp but he is firmly entrenched as the starting running back barring any complications.
Danny Woodhead is next on the depth chart. Now two seasons removed from a broken leg, Woodhead is the swiss army knife of the Chargers backfield. Last season he was the leading receiver on the team in catches (80) and receiving yards (755). He was also the second leading running back on the roster with 336 yards on 98 carries. Woodhead led the team in touchdowns with nine, (six receiving, three rushing). He will resume his role as pass-catching specialist and third-down threat.
As for the third spot in the rotation, the coaching staff has indicated a desire to get Branden Oliver back into the mix. Oliver saw very little action in 2015 with 31 carries for 108 yards and 13 receptions for 112 yards. In 2014, with Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead out with injuries, Oliver stepped into the lead role and excelled immediately. The 5-foot-8, 208-pound bowling ball notched back-to-back 100-yard games, earned NFL Rookie of the Week honors and led the Chargers in rushing. If the staff is sincere in its plans to create a three-headed monster in the backfield, this will be a unit to be reckoned with.
The remaining contenders in the running back competition consists of Dreamius Smith and Kenneth Farrow. Smith spent last season on the Chargers’ practice squad after making the team as an undrafted free agent. Farrow is also an undrafted free agent from the University of Houston who signed with the team after the 2016 NFL Draft.
Barring injury the running back lineup is set. We’ll know the progress Gordon is making by the front office’s actions on the waiver wire. If another veteran is picked up, he’s not where they want him to be. Expect Telesco’s first call to go to former Texans four-time Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster if that is the case. Foster is the biggest named, most highly decorated running back still available. A litany of injuries have led to the unraveling of his career. If Gordon is on schedule, a running back acquisition won’t be made. There are many other areas that are bigger concerns than in the backfield, which looks to be stocked better than it has been in years with the running backs and fullbacks that will make the roster.
Do you like what you see in the backfield or should the Chargers make a move to add more depth? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
As soon as they hung up the phone after the seventh round selection in the NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers busily started making calls to sign their undrafted free agent class. Twenty players have been signed to compete for roster spots. Here is the full list.
Mike Berkovici QB, Arizona State
Terrell Chestnut CB, West Virginia
Kenneth Farrow RB, Houston
Tyler Johnstone OT, Oregon
Sebastian Johansson G, Marshall
Jamaal Jones WR, Montana
Chris Landrum OLB, Jacksonville State
Mike McQueen G, Ohio
Adrian McDonald S, Houston
Tyler Marcordes OLB, Georgia Tech
Spencer Pulley C, Vanderbilt
Shaq Pettway LB, West Virginia
Zeth Ramsay OT, Colorado Mesa
Deandre Reaves WR, Marshall
Jay Rome TE, Georgia
Larry Scott CB, Oregon State
Chris Swain RB, Navy
Dominique Williams WR, Washington State
Trevor Williams CB, Penn State
Carlos Wray DE, Duke
Unless you’re a college football aficionado most of these names are unfamiliar but there are a handful of names here to keep an eye on. Living in Phoenix, I have seen Mike Berkovici in person and he is a great story of hard work and perseverance. Instead of transferring schools when ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly was getting all the on-field time, Berkovici stayed true to his team and supported Kelly. After finally getting his starting opportunity when Kelly was injured at the beginning of the 2014 season, Berkovici led the Sun Devils to a 5-1 record including hanging a 510-yard, 5-touchdown game on USC on the road. Check out the clip below of the 2016 Cactus Bowl shootout against West Virginia.
Berkovici had a breakout season in 2015 where he took over the reins for the departed Kelly. Last season he went 318-531 for 3,855 yards, 30 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He also ran for 347 yards and 6 touchdowns. Berkovici had three games last season where he threw for 395 yards or more. In each he had at least four touchdowns. I was in attendance when ASU hosted the Oregon Ducks in what turned into a 61-55 3-overtime shootout. Berkovici went 32-53 for 398 yards and 5 touchdowns in a controversial loss.
Calling my shot here. Berkovici will make the team.
Another diamond in the rough could be Adrian McDonald out of Houston. Semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award (given to the top defensive back), McDonald (5″11′, 205 lbs.) is a playmaker and legitimate ball hawk, swiping 17 interceptions over his career at Houston.
San Diego is determined to make sure the center position is solidified this season not only with the selection of Max Tuerk in the third round but by adding Pulley in the undrafted free agent class. With his great size (6″4′, 300 lbs.) and obvious mastery of his technique (35 pancake blocks in 2015), this will be a position battle to watch this offseason.
The future is looking a lot brighter than it did a week ago.
What do you think Boltfam? Leave your thoughts below.
The Greg One