He was probably the most pleasant surprise of the otherwise disappointing San Diego Chargers season, running back Branden Oliver.
He proved to be a tough guy running the football in the preseason, making you wonder why he was never drafted coming out of the University of Buffalo.
He put up back-to-back 100 yard games early in the season, when injuries nailed Ryan Mathews then Danny Woodhead. He rumbled for (114Y) against the disappointing Jets, then (101) against the woeful Raiders.
He opened eyes with his toughness to bounce off tackles, his balance to withstand hits, his power running thru people, and his durability. Then he did nothing the final 10-weeks of the season.
Branden Oliver is being praised right now by the Chargers, who are looking to him to replace Ryan Mathews, who left as a free agent to sign a 3Y-deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Mathews gave the Chargers a year and half of strong man running back work, and 3-and-a half years of nagging injuries and doubts.
When he was healthy, he had 7-different injuries, he was the power back this team needed to make quarterback Philip Rivers even more dangerous. But aside from a brilliant 2013, Mike McCoy’s first year, his productivity and availability was uneven.
In that magical season, McCoy taught him to be a pro running back. You could see his improved conditioning, you could sense his maturity, you saw the little things finally done right, catching passes and blitz blocking.
When he was done with that season he had 311-touches, and 1444-all purpose yards, and you thought he had arrived. And then he got hurt again last year, multiple times.
It was a nasty season, Mathews going down, the tough setback injury to Danny Woodhead, and the subpar year of Donald Brown. Yes Oliver caught the fancy of alot of people, but it was for just two weeks.
Woodhead broke his leg, and no one can really tell if he can duplicate his magical 2013 season of 1,034 all purpose yards. Brown had just a (2.6) yards per carry mark, the worst of his five year career since coming from the Colts.
It brings us back to Bull-from-Buffalo. Those final 10-games of the season, he had 103-carries for 333-yards, a (3.2) average. Of the 160-carries, 83-resulted in 2-yards or less, and 25-were tackles-for-loss carries. Was it him, or was it a poor offensive line?
The Chargers may have a shot at two great college running back, Wisconsin power back Melvin Gordon, or Georgia star Todd Gurley, recovering from mid year knee surgery. Both could be there with the 17th pick in the first round. Of course San Diego still needs offensive line help, and could wind up with a quality tackle-guard or center with that pick.
Tough call coming on draft day, of course they’ll have to wait and see what surprises happen above them in that first round.
That’s why it is so surprising Mike McCoy would make the comment, Branden Oliver is his guy, that after seeing him disappear. He said he could be the Bolts workhorse..I think he is more of a plow-horse. He may get yards, just don’t think he can deliver the goods, bring in the crop in Sunday-by-Sunday in the NFL.