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Previewing the 2024 Los Angeles Chargers Running Backs

The Chargers running backs lineup has been heavily revamped heavily this offseason, with two halfbacks from Baltimore at the front of it.
Chargers Running Backs

One of the major aspects of the regime change for the Los Angeles Chargers was that Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman and company wanted to go all-in on fixing the running backs. Part of that was worked on by improving the offensive line, but that was also done by bringing in some new faces at running back. Considering that Austin Ekeler departed in free agency and no one else left from the 2023 roster was particularly notable, it probably wasn’t a project that would be accomplished in one year – but Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz still gave it their best shot.

2024 Los Angeles Chargers Running Backs Preview

Boys From Baltimore: Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins

It was perhaps a little predictable, but bringing in former Ravens coordinator Greg Roman as well as Jim Harbaugh – the brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh – they were going to go after some former Ravens. In that pursuit, they plucked both Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins. Neither of them are known for being bell-cow backs, but they have both been very capable as part of a committee setup. Edwards – more of a downhill runner and goal-line back – had a career-high 810 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last year. Chances are that he’ll be the most important halfback for the Chargers this year.

Dobbins had a very promising start in his 2020 rookie year with 805 yards and six yards per carry, but since then has struggled heavily with injuries, only playing eight games in three years. While Edwards has his injury history too, Dobbins is much more of a risk. Expectations on him should be tempered – if he can stay healthy, he could be a good contributor alongside Edwards – just like in Baltimore. But he is coming off a torn Achilles from last year, and based on the historical results of running backs after a torn Achilles, the odds are not in his favor.

The Rookie: Kimani Vidal

The Chargers waited until the sixth round to add a rookie running back, but they got one with a strong resume. Vidal had the second most rushing yards in the nation in 2023 with 1,661 yards plus 14 touchdowns. He is a capable receiver as well. He’s not expected to be that level of bell-cow back in the NFL – probably in part due to being undersized (also likely the reason he didn’t go until the sixth round).

However, he could easily end up being the next Ekeler or Darren Sproles type of player for the Chargers – which would make him a valuable weapon. He should absolutely be a player to watch in training camp and preseason.

The Remaining Holdover: Isaiah Spiller

With both Ekeler and Joshua Kelley gone in free agency, Spiller is the only notable member of the Chargers running backs left from the Staley era. Though perhaps ‘notable’ is a strong word, because he has done very little in two years despite heightened expectations. He started showing a little promise late last year, but he has still averaged only 2.5 yards per carry through two years and has zero touchdowns.

This is very much a make-or-break year for Spiller – and very possibly a make-or-break off-season for him too. He’ll have a chance in the preseason to show that he can be productive with improved offensive line performance, though there’s still a chance he makes the roster regardless if no one else impresses sufficiently.

Everyone Else

Elijah Dotson was a preseason darling last year, but spent most of the year on the practice squad and had just six touches total. The fact that the Chargers didn’t even try using him later in the year when there were injuries and/or didn’t have much to play for is telling. Unless Harbaugh is sufficiently impressed, he is likely destined for either the practice squad again or for the waiver wire.

That leaves Jaret Patterson, who spent some time on the practice squad last year and signed a new reserve/future contract in January. Interestingly enough, he actually has some history of productivity with the Washington Commanders, having averaged four yards per carry in two years with them on 344 yards and two touchdowns. That may not sound like much, but it’s more than either Spiller or Dotson have accomplished. Build-wise, he’s similar to Vidal at 5’8. He’s arguably a sleeper to make the roster if Spiller fails to impress – particularly to be an alternative to Vidal for his skill-set if he struggles or is hurt.

There is also Ben Mason at fullback – another former Raven. He played one game at the end of last season and was only on special teams. Whether he would be used much for the Chargers as a ball carrier or just as a blocker remains to be seen.


Main Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


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