Possessing one of the NFL’s brightest young stars at quarterback in Justin Herbert, not many people are thinking about the Los Angeles Chargers running back depth chart.
However, if the Bolts are to take the next step into the NFL playoffs in 2022, they will need better production from the running back room.
The Chargers ranked 21st in the NFL in rushing yards last season. Of course, their SoFi Stadium neighbor Rams ranked lower than that, and the Rams won the Super Bowl.
Any discussion of the Chargers’ ground game must include Herbert, who was the Chargers’ third-leading rushing last year with 302 yards and three touchdowns. It’s that type of ability that has opposing defensive coordinators chewing straws.
Los Angeles has bucked the running back trend in the NFL. They have a clear RB1 in Austin Ekeler. He’s productive and coming off a 20-touchdown year; behind Ekeler, though, are question marks.
Here’s looking at the Chargers running back situation heading into 2022.
One of the best stories in the NFL, Ekeler emerged out of tiny Western Colorado and was just too productive for the Chargers to keep on the bench.
He signed a four-year contract extension in 2020 and is the prototypical NFL back for today’s game. He can run, catch and block. He’s a three-down threat.
Ekeler is a major target in the Chargers’ passing game, coming off a year where he grabbed 31 balls to go with 911 yards on the ground. His 20 combined touchdowns tied him with Jonathan Taylor of the Colts for the most in the NFL.
Can he maintain that pace in 2022? He has had some injuries in his career, but the bigger issue is that the Chargers probably won’t ask him to do more.
Spiller will enter camp as the heir apparent to Ekeler and No. 2 back. The Chargers drafted him in the fourth round, and they will give him every chance to fit his skills into the offense.
Spiller is different than Ekeler and built more to run inside the tackles. He was incredibly productive at Texas A&M, leading the Aggies with 1,011 yards and six touchdowns as a junior.
The Chargers were active after the NFL Draft, signing Brown as an unrestricted free agent out of West Virginia. With the Mountaineers, he had 12 100-yard games and finished sixth in school history in rushing yards. He may be more than just camp legs to burn up through pre-season.
Kevin Marks Jr.
Another free-agent signee out of Buffalo, Marks Jr. saw his production level off with the Bulls. He ran for 1,035 yards as a sophomore, then 741 as a junior and 414 as a senior.
Both Brown and Marks Jr. will fight for that third tailback spot with Larry Roundtree and Joshua Kelly. Roundtree was a sixth-round pick in 2021 and did contribute on special teams. Kelly hasn’t shown much in limited time. He’s going into his third year out of UCLA.
A fullback? Really? The Chargers will have a fullback competition in training camp.
Horvath is a bull out of Purdue who impressed scouts with his size, 6-foot-2, and speed, he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash in the run-up to the draft.
Los Angeles already has a fullback on the roster in Gabe Nabers. This would be his third year in the electric blue. No, the Chargers don’t line up with a fullback much, and will only keep one on the main roster going into 2022. The Chargers spent a seventh-round pick on Horvath which tells me he is the favorite to win the fullback spot.