It is no secret that the San Diego Chargers struggled to run the ball last year. The offensive line which was supposed to be a strength for the team was often injured and had a very unproductive year as a unit.
Even worse is the team used its first round pick on Melvin Gordon and he failed to even score a rushing touchdown in his rookie year. The power style of running attack that in necessary for Gordon’s success was not implemented into the offensive system. As a result offensive coordinator Frank Reich lost his job because the Chargers were a horribly one-dimensional team on offense.
Gordon and his abilities were never cultivated by the Chargers properly. Instead of using him in some power formations the team insisted on turning into someone he was not. We saw flashes of decent play, but he needs a new system to succeed. He might be a decent back, but in order to make that determination, the team needs to see him in a style of play that is meant for him and his game.
Philip Rivers had a great year, but after a while with absolute no running game the defensive unit was able to just tee off on Rivers. How many times did we see Gordon being used in a shotgun formation, and being given a draw play like he is Thurman Thomas or something. Adrian Peterson would have no effect in an offense like that and neither has Gordon to absolutely nobodies surprise. Players should be used to their abilities within a system, and not be forced to be someone they are not.
So what can be done to assure a more efficient running game? A full back would be a great start. The team used David Johnson in the role last season but the tight end was clearly not able to perform at the level needed for success. There is one familiar player who is available and can provide that fullback needed for the Chargers.
Mike Tolbert ring a bell? The former Chargers running back/full back is an unrestricted free agent and he would be a great fit for the Chargers. He not only can run and pass block, but he is a great receiver and an underrated running back. He also has a familiarity with the Chargers system and Philip Rivers.
Tolbert took less money to leave the Chargers following the 2011 season. It was reported he walked away from more than a million dollars to play in Carolina. He went to Coastal Carolina University and was very much looking forward to returning home. It is not known if he would consider playing out west again, but perhaps a reunion with Philip Rivers will be enticing enough for him to return.
The Chargers currently have Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead at the running back position. Branden Oliver and Donald Brown are also listed on the Chargers roster but each could be released if the Chargers look to change the philosophy of the offense a bit.
Tolbert spent four seasons in San Diego where he played 59 games and rushed for 1,410 yards and scored 20 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 109 balls in four seasons for 1,012 yards and six touchdowns. The bowling ball type effort he gave while carrying the ball was tough for defenders to bring down. He was a great short yard option and could be great opening up holes for Melvin Gordon.
Having the dimension of a pass catching fullback would be a great new toy for Rivers to work with. He could create havoc for defenses and also mentor Melvin Gordon. That in itself would be valuable for the Chargers. Tolbert since becoming a Panther has not fumbled one ball. He has 254 carries and 84 pass receptions without one single fumble. His ball security skills would also be an asset for a Chargers team that struggled turning the ball over from time to time last year.
The Carolina Panthers are a team on the rise so if he was asked to return to them, he certainly would do so. However he is 30 years old and the team could easily go in another direction with their running game. If Tolbert hits the open market, the Chargers should contact their former player and touch base. Life is circular, so perhaps a return to San Diego isn’t out of the question for Mike Tolbert.