PHOENIX -- With the loss of running back Ryan Mathews to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, the San Diego Chargers are in need of a workhorse running back who can handle the majority of the carries.
While San Diego likely will look to the draft or free agency for that every-down back, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said that player could already be on the roster -- Branden Oliver, the team’s leading rusher last season.
“Ryan was very unique,” McCoy said. “He’s different than what we have now. But as that physical guy, yes, you can say Branden is that physical guy we have now.”
An undrafted rookie free agent out of Buffalo, Oliver finished with 582 rushing yards and three touchdowns, averaging 3.6 yards per carry. He twice rushed for over 100 yards in a game. The Chargers also get Danny Woodhead back from a broken ankle, and Donald Brown rounds out the running back group.
“We can win with the three guys we have now,” McCoy said. “I believe that. We’re going to play them all. So, they’re all going to play in their own way, and we’ll see what happens through the draft and the rest of free agency with what’s available.”
McCoy went on to say Oliver was fortunate to join an experienced running back room that included Woodhead, Mathews and Brown, so he could learn from all three of those players.
In other Chargers news:
McCoy said that recent free-agent addition Jimmy Wilson will compete with Jahleel Addae for the starting strong safety job left vacant when Marcus Gilchrist signed with the New York Jets in free agency. “As you’ve seen the last two years, we’re going to let everybody compete,” McCoy said. “And we’re going to play the best 11 guys. That’s a message we give the first day of the offseason program. We’re going to give everyone an opportunity through OTAs, minicamp and things like that --training camp -- to show us what you can do.”
Getting tight end Ladarius Green more involved in the offense will be a point of emphasis again this offseason, McCoy said. The Chargers effectively used a lot of three-receiver sets last season, which limited Green’s snap counts on game day “He works extremely hard,” McCoy said. “I don’t think it was anything he was doing physically out there. It was just a matter of philosophically what we were doing with the players we had. ... We need to use him more.”
McCoy confirmed what Chargers general manager Tom Telesco told reporters earlier this month -- D.J. Fluker is penciled in as the team’s right tackle, for now. However, McCoy said the team will play the best starting five up front, and there’s a chance Fluker could be moved inside down the road. “Right now he’s at right tackle with the way our roster is set right now, but that could change,” McCoy said. “And we’ll see over time what’s the best spot is for him. But I think the success he had two years ago, and the success he had throughout the year last year in what he could do, he can play tackle easily in this league. He’s done it for two years for us.”
McCoy said he’s not concerned about the stadium situation. “I’m coaching the team to win today -- that’s what I’m doing,” he said. “When Dean Spanos hired me, and the rest of the organization hired me to be the head coach, it’s to put a team together that competes week in and week out, and that’s what we’re going to do this year. It’s about winning. I can’t control the other things outside. My job is to lead the team, lead the players and do what we’re supposed to do.”