Chargers RB Branden Oliver is driven with an insatiable desire to make a bigger impact in 2015. True to form, he is not resting on his laurels, stressing a number of areas he wants to improve upon in order to fulfill his potential.
“My power, strength, speed and agility I am focusing on,” he said after a recent workout at Chargers Park. “I want to get better at everything. I don’t really focus on just one particular thing. I like to be well rounded and won’t limit myself to one area. It is always best to work at everything. I worked out the entire offseason Monday through Saturday. I took three weeks off after the season ended but worked out every week after that.”
Still, there is one aspect he wants to improve upon the most. “I want to break more tackles. I would also like to be a little more explosive.”
Oliver is also confident he can take his game to the next level in 2015 because he is far more comfortable than he was as a rookie.
“They will come easier this year because I’m more comfortable and know the offense. Now I can just go out there and ball. This year is very different. I feel so much better coming in. I’m more confident. I’m gelling with the guys and am more open to them because I know them better. It’s really just crazy to be going into my second year already! But I feel real good.”
When asked about the state of his running back corps, GM Tom Telesco said, "I'm not saying we wouldn't add somebody, but we don't need to." This is a situation to watch during the draft -- if the Chargers don't add a runner during the first two days, it's very possible that Oliver will go into the season as the starter with Donald Brown as his primary backup and Danny Woodhead as the passing down back. In that scenario, Oliver’s ADP would rise from its current level (12th round) and Woodhead would be a nice value in PPR formats.
“I feel really, really good,” Chargers RB Danny Woodhead said, flashing his trademark grin. “I really do. As far as the injury goes, that is something I’m not even thinking about. I’m thinking about trying to get better. I’m focusing on working on what I can do to be better than I was last year. Obviously I wasn’t able to play a lot of games, so I should say I want to be better than I was that first season here.”
“It’s been a long process,” he said of his recovery from a broken fibula. “But definitely it makes you hungrier when the game is taken away. It makes you realize how blessed you are to play it. Not that I didn’t understand that before, but when it is taken away for such a long amount of time, it makes you even hungrier. You miss being out there with your brothers. I’m excited for this season. I’m always excited, but my mentality might even be younger and hungrier than ever before.”
Woodhead is signed through the 2016 season, so assuming he's fully healed, he should resume his role as the Chargers' passing down specialist. In 21 games with the Chargers (including the playoffs), Woodhead has averaged 11.0 touches (4.1 catches) for 58 yards and 0.43 touchdowns, which equate to #13 RB numbers in PPR formats (#21 in standard). The team is expected to draft a running back this month, but it's unlikely that they'll trust a rookie on third downs when they have Woodhead at their disposal. He should continue to be a terrific value in the later rounds, especially in PPR formats.
LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden, who excels on special teams, are going to be on next year's roster. There will be one pass-catching back; whether that player is Shane Vereen or James White or someone else remains to be seen. If Stevan Ridley is re-signed, that's four running backs. There will also be competition from Tyler Gaffney, a 6-foot-1, 227-pound back who spent his rookie season on injured reserve. So Gray will probably have to prove himself in the offseason.
Vereen, who had 11 receptions in the Super Bowl, is a free agent. He probably won't cost the team a ton (for reference, Danny Woodhead got a two year, $3.5 million contract from San Diego in 2013).
The Patriots let Woodhead walk because they also had Vereen, so their decision may be based on their depth at the position. If they feel confident that rising second-year pro James White can fill Vereen's spot, you might not see No. 34 in a Pats uniform come next fall.
Part of Vereen's appeal is that he plays in a friendly system, but he lacks consistency, even in PPR formats. The team's willingness to re-sign Vereen will likely come down to price.
Friday, November 14, 2014, 6:06pm
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 11. Mathews is expected to make his return this week in a great matchup with the Raiders. We’re not expecting he'll immediately get the 17.8 carries he averaged in 2013, but he should be good for 12-16 touches if things go well. Branden Oliver should take over the Danny Woodhead role in the offense.
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews has not played since a Sept. 14 contest against the Seattle Seahawks because of an MCL knee sprain. It’s probably unfair to expect Mathews to carry the ball that many times in his first game back. However, with Mathews expected to return to the field on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and running back coach Ollie Wilson will be working closely with the team’s training staff to gauge how Mathews is handling his workload during the game.
Ultimately head coach Mike McCoy has final say. Chargers head trainer James Collins has been closely monitoring Mathews during practice, making sure there’s no setback in his rehabilitation process.
"We have to find out how much he’s ready to take," Reich said. "And that starts with us at the head coaching level. The trainers and Ollie and I have kind of talked about getting a feel for him during the game, and how much he can go, and that’s Ryan being honest with us.
"But he’s a big time player on this team. We want him to play as much as he can, but we want to be smart about it as well."
Thursday, November 13, 2014, 6:29pm
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) practiced fully Wednesday. Mathews is expected to make his return this week in a great matchup with the Raiders. We’re not expecting the 17.8 carries he averaged in 2013 immediately, but he should be good for 12-15 touches if things go well. Branden Oliver should take over the Danny Woodhead role in the offense.
Chargers every-down running back Ryan Mathews is expected to return and practice this week.
Having all the injured playmakers back should give the San Diego Chargers, losers of three straight, a boost on both sides of the ball. But don’t tell that to Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, who said the rest of the team has to play better in order for those injured players to have an impact on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
“Ryan Mathews does not guarantee us 200 yards rushing,” McCoy said. “It’s the other 10 guys on the field that have to do their jobs better. We’ve talked about that as a football team. We ran the ball fairly well with No. 43 (Branden Oliver) back there plenty of times. We won five games without these guys."
Everyone seems to agree that Mathews will at least bring a physical presence back to the running game. Mathews could be eased back into a normal workload against the Raiders, but it seems reasonable to expect 15-18 carries a game for Mathews when he's back up to speed. Oliver could very well take on a Danny Woodhead-like role, but also proved a capable back to spell Mathews. Donald Brown was supposed to be that guy as the team looked to keep Mathews fresh for the playoffs. Mathews is certainly worth grabbing if he's still on your wire.
Friday, October 31, 2014, 5:43pm
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee, out) returned to take limited reps Friday after missing practice earlier in the week and is out for Week 9. It looks like Mathews will try to return in Week 11, after the team’s Week 10 bye. He should return to his lead back role with Branden Oliver moving to a Danny Woodhead-type role on third downs and in the hurry-up offense.
Friday, September 26, 2014, 6:33pm
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee, out) missed practice all week and is out for Week 4. With Danny Woodhead also out, Donald Brown should see a big workload as the team’s featured back. The diminutive Branden Oliver may work some in the Woodhead role.
Thursday, September 25, 2014, 6:48pm
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) missed practice again Thursday. With Danny Woodhead out, Donald Brown should see a big workload as the team’s featured back. The diminutive Branden Oliver may work some in the Woodhead role.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 7:09pm
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) did not practice Wednesday. With Danny Woodhead out, Donald Brown should see a big workload as the team’s featured back. The diminutive Branden Oliver may work some in the Woodhead role.
Chargers coach Mike McCoy told reporters that Danny Woodhead suffered a broken fibula in yesterday’s game, and would be placed on season-ending injured reserve.
They’ll have to make do with Donald Brown now, and after he touched the ball 36 times yesterday, he’s clearly ready for a heavy workload.
The only hope for the Chargers is that he holds up until Mathews returns.
Branden Oliver will likely see a bigger workload too after getting just three carries for 11 yards in Week 3, but it looks like Brown will be a solid play just based on workload alone. The team will probably have to make a room for another back until Mathews gets back.
Woodhead suffered a fibula and right ankle injury during the Chargers' opening drive in Buffalo, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports, per a San Diego source. He remained on the field for several minutes before being carted to the locker room and did not return to the 22-10 win.
Woodhead will have more tests Monday, but the team is concerned it's a fractured fibula, which could end his season. With Mathews expected to miss a month with a sprained MCL, Donald Brown took over in the backfield after Woodhead went down. Branden Oliver becomes the primary backup on a suddenly thin depth chart. The Bolts will probably have to make another move to add a RB.
Saturday, September 20, 2014, 9:54am
With Ryan Mathews expected to miss some time with an MCL sprain, many are looking toward Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown to pick up the slack with extra touches. However, there is another running back on the active roster that the Bolts.
Undrafted rookie Branden Oliver earned a spot on the team with a standout offseason, training camp as well as his preseason performances. Averaging a team-high 4.6 yards per carry, Oliver ran for 161 yards on 35 carries for one touchdown in four games. While inactive up until this point, the team has full faith in him should his number be called.
“He’ll be ready to go,” Head Coach Mike McCoy said. “He had a great offseason program with us. He had a good training camp and he’s ready to go.”
With three talented backs ahead of him on the depth chart, Oliver was a healthy scratch the first two weeks of the season but will make his Chargers debut in Week 3. With Woodhead and Brown capable of splitting carries, Oliver's workload is a big question mark and probably isn't worth a roster spot in typical leagues. But, he's now just an injury away from perhaps playing a huge role...
Friday, September 19, 2014, 7:09pm
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee, out) missed practice all week and is out for Week 3. Mathews will reportedly miss 4-5 weeks with a sprained knee. Donald Brown takes over as the primary early down back, but Danny Woodhead will be plenty involved.
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