Chargers' RB Breakdown: Complete Position Evaluation and Analysis

Alex Ramirez@@alexramirez127Correspondent IMay 22, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 9:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers hands off to Ryan Mathews #24 against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 9, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The San Diego Chargers have recently made some big signings in Dwight Freeney and Max Starks, but one of their smartest moves of the current offseason was the addition of Danny Woodhead. For a team who had the best running back in the league for about seven years, San Diego is trying everything they can to find stability and production in the backfield.

Over the past few years, there were three reasons for the Chargers' diminished running game: health, offensive line and Norv Turner.

They all tied in together if you think about it. Ryan Mathews hasn't played an entire season because of his inability to stay healthy. Yes, he's very fragile, but the NFL's worst offensive line doesn't help either. None of that really mattered anyway with Turner coaching. He had no clue as to how to use Mathews in his offense. He would run him up the middle a lot more than outside or on a pitch.

Let's now look into the future. 2013 should involve a heavy-running attack with Ken Whisenhunt now directing. Let's see if the explosiveness that LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles brought to the team years ago returns.

Ryan Mathews

Ht: 6'0'' Wt: 218 pounds

College: Fresno State

Experience: three years

2012 Statistics: 707 yards, 3.8 yards per carry, 1 TD

Three years into the league, Mathews is already facing a make-or-break season with the San Diego Chargers. It's very obvious and clear that Mathews has incredible talent and elusive ability, but his injury concerns scare MANY people, including coaches.

There is a reason the Chargers jumped up in the 2010 draft to land the former Bulldog. I still believe Mathews can be a top-five back in the NFL, staying healthy of course. In the Chargers' new offensive system, he'll have plenty of opportunities to shine.

The 2012 training camp was the best Mathews ever felt going into a season. After a broken collarbone, he wasn't able to gain momentum into the regular season. In 2013, he will.

Projected Position in the Depth Chart: starter


Ronnie Brown

Ht: 6'0'' Wt: 223 pounds

College: Auburn

Experience: eight years

2012 Statistics: 220 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 371 receiving yards, 7.6 yards per catch

One of the founding fathers of the Wildcat offense in the NFL, Ronnie Brown, played very well for the Chargers in 2012. At this point in his career, Brown is more effective in the passing game. He doesn't have the speed he once did.

San Diego may not use Brown much next year, but when they do, it should be on third down. Brown is one of Philip Rivers' favorite targets and should get attention and praise for No. 17 himself.

Projected Position in the Depth Chart: third string


Danny Woodhead

Ht: 5'8'' Wt: 200 pounds

College: Chadron State

Experience: five years

2012 Statistics: 301 yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 4 TDs, 446 receiving yards, 11.2 yards per catch, 3 TDs

Charger fans should be excited to watch Danny Woodhead in San Diego. He may not have the speedy quickness that Sproles has, but he's pretty darn close production wise. Woodhead will become Philip Rivers' best friend throughout the season in the passing attack.

One little dump-off to No. 39 can result in a 20-yard play in the blink of an eye. The Chargers offense is much more explosive with Woodhead on the roster.

Projected Position in the Depth Chart: backup


Foswhitt Whittaker

Ht: 5'10'' Wt: 202 pounds

College: Texas

Experience: one year

2012 Statistics: N/A

Foswhitt "Fozzy" Whittaker was brought in with Ken Whisenhunt. After going undrafted and unsigned, Whittaker spent the entire season in free agency. That was until the Arizona Cardinals signed him to their practice squad for the final two games.

Whisenhunt had the Chargers bring Whittaker in based on what he saw last season. He'll bring competition to San Diego this summer. Who knows, maybe with this new youth movement, Whittaker could take Ronnie Brown's spot?

Projected Position in the Depth Chart: cut


Edwin Baker

Ht: 5'8'' Wt: 200 pounds

College: Michigan State

Experience: one year

2012 Statistics: N/A

Edwin Baker was the final pick by the San Diego Chargers in the 2012 NFL draft. He did not play one snap last season and did not make any game-day rosters. Baker bounced around from the practice squad to free agency the entire season.

Projected Position in the Depth Chart: Cut


Michael Hill

Ht: 5'10'' Wt: 209 pounds

College: Missouri Western

Experience: rookie

2012 Statistics: N/A

When the Chargers hosted Michael Hill in March, their intentions were never to draft him. They wanted to sign him as an undrafted rookie to add competition to training camp. Hill is a very talented running back that could have been a late round gem.

He'll have a chance to prove to coaches he deserves a roster spot, but it will be tough to do so.

Projected Position in the Depth Chart: cut


Chris Gronkowsi

Ht: 6'2'' Wt: 245 pounds

College: Arizona

Experience: four years

2012 Statistics: 11 receiving yards

Good news: San Diego's Gronkowsi is healthier than New England's. Bad news: San Diego's Gronkowski is not Rob.

Chris Gronkowski has a solid shot at making the Chargers' roster, but not as a running back. He'll either play fullback or be a special teams player. That is, if he makes the team or not.

Projected Position in the Depth Chart: cut


Note: None of these projections involve players added to the practice squad.