Their season hasn't even started yet, but the San Diego Chargers are already trying to figure out what to do with their running backs.
Since Ryan Mathews is out of Monday night's game against Oakland with a clavicle injury, Ronnie Brown will get the start at running back for the Chargers. Brown had just 42 carries in 16 games with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
The player that Brown's presence will affect the most is Philip Rivers. The Chargers quarterback has all the ability in the world. We have seen him put up video game-like numbers against great teams and look like he belongs in the category of elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
But then last year came along and changed everything we think about Rivers. That's not to say Rivers fell off a cliff in 2011—he still threw for more than 4,600 yards and 27 touchdowns—but his 20 interceptions were a huge step back.
The Chargers have not had a great running game the last two years, but it has been good enough. That has to change this year, starting on Monday against the Raiders. Rivers has to trust Brown enough to take pressure off him.
Brown is not the same runner he was with the Dolphins. A series of injuries combined with age have changed the way he handles the game. That doesn't mean head coach Norv Turner is going to shy away from giving him a chance to shine.
Here is what Turner told the San Diego Union Tribune about the running back situation heading into Week 1.
“I’d like to think that someone will emerge,” Turner said, “that we’ll feel good enough about someone where they can get 20 carries."
If there was someone in the backfield who’d get 20 carries, it’d likely stand as the 30-year-old, whom Turner calls a “complete player.”
“Yeah,” Turner said with a smile. “He could be the guy.”
Brown will be the most important player on the field for the Chargers. He needs to show the skills he had before being lost in the abyss that was Philadelphia last year.
He certainly has the right opponent to revive his career. The Raiders ranked 27th in the NFL last year with 136.1 yards allowed per game on the ground.
The Chargers have to come out and establish the run before turning Rivers loose. Brown is the straw that stirs the drink, so it is on him to show that he has something left in the tank.