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Chargers expect a more elusive Donald Brown

SAN DIEGO -- In football circles, making a defender miss traditionally is considered something you can't teach -- either you can move like Barry Sanders or you can't.

But San Diego Chargers running backs coach Ollie Wilson is bucking that trend this year. And the focus of his attention is running back Donald Brown.

"I believe this -- you get better with more repetitions," Wilson said. "If you don't rep the situations, then you don't get better at it. So we're going to put him in those situations."

Yes, we know Brown averaged a nose-pinching 2.6 yards per carry last season, with his longest run in 2014 just 16 yards.

But according to Pro Football Focus Brown had the top elusive rating among running backs in the NFL in 2013, when he averaged 5.3 yards per carry for the Indianapolis Colts. So Wilson believes Brown knows how to make defenders miss. It's just a matter of getting back to what worked for him two years ago in Indianapolis.

Brown is only 28 years old. He's reliable and has an intimate understanding of offensive coordinator Frank Reich's offense.

San Diego's improved offensive line should help bring Brown's yards-per-carry numbers up. But he also has to do a better job of breaking tackles in the open field.

Wilson created some downhill running drills that will help Brown reestablish his confidence in making defenders miss in the open field. And he also strongly encourages Brown and other San Diego running backs to work on making guys miss during team drills, and not to just coast when they get to the second level.

Wilson said Brown dropped some weight, which has helped the University of Connecticut product pick up more quickness.

"He's got a burst that he really didn't have last year," Wilson said. "What Donald and I talked about a lot is his work in the open field -- working one-on-one with a guy and making a guy miss. And that's something we're really spending a lot of time on.

"The advantage Donald has is he knows everything in the offense. He's as smart as a whip -- that's why protection-wise a lot of times when we didn't have Danny [Woodhead], he was the next guy in because he knew all of the protections.

"To be very honest with you, as much as I think he can get better at finishing off runs, he was really good handling blitz. That was something that was a little bit of a knock on him coming from Indy, but I can put on a blitz reel film, and taking on A gap linebackers that were probably 30 or 40 pounds heavier, he got them stopped."