Thursday, August 13, 2009

Charger Running Backs Starting 2009: A-

One of the lynchpins of my predictions for a San Diego Charger Super Bowl this season rests with the health of LaDanian Tomlinson. He was hurt much of last year and many began to proclaim that he had lost a step. On the contrary, I think it was a key part of our offensive line, guard Mike Goff, who had lost a step. Left Tackle Marcus McNeil was also dealing with a severe neck injury that held him back for the entire season.

Improved line play and a healthy LT will show the league he truly is not just one of the greats of his era, but one of the all-time greats. His superior training, focus, and desire to be great will give him two more years before we see any true erosion of skill. Look for LT’s numbers to be closer to 2006 than 2008 this season.

Darren Sproles emerged as a sensation in the league last year, still definitely in his prime, he will electrify fans and gain yards in big chunks. The difference between this season and last will be that Norv now knows what he can do and believes in him, so he’ll get more playing time for the entire season.
Jacob Hester is the biggest question mark at fullback. He has yet to prove that he can be an effective blocker in this league. He is a quick runner, talented pass catcher, and skilled athlete for a fullback, but can he knock a linebacker back at the point of attack? Watch him in the preseason and early in the regular season for a key indicator of how consistent the Charger running game will be this year.

Gartrell Johnson, a big back out of Colorado State, has been the subject of some buzz coming from the San Diego Union Tribune writers. He will get a lot of playing time in the preseason to show what he can do. The knock on him out of the combines was a lack of speed. Take a look during preseason and see how quickly he gets through the holes. If he’s bursting through for two yards then another two after contact, we may have something.

Michael Bennett will have to fight in camp and show he still has something left if he’s going to make this team. He had a couple nice runs in the playoffs last season, but he may be whisked off to a team with a greater need before we know it. Anyone else listed at running back on the team is most likely headed for the practice squad or chopping block.

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