After one preseason game, Marion Grice is no longer a San Diego Charger. At least that’s the case if the media reports and fan overreaction are to be believed. After a subpar performance in the first game against the Dallas Cowboys, Grice suddenly has apparently found himself on the wrong side of the roster bubble. As usual is the case after just one preseason game, it’s time to calm down.
Grice wasn’t great, or good, against the Cowboys, but that doesn’t mean he’s now unworthy of making the team. He did get the most carries of all running backs, but was only able to rush for 35 yards on 14 carries. That’s a 2.5 yards per carry average, though that average is just as likely to carry over to the next game as Branden Oliver’s 9.1 yards per carry.
Oliver is now reportedly the fourth back favorite after a 27-yard run and 16-yard touchdown run against Dallas. While that could conceivably put him ahead of Grice for now, the roster decision is not going to be made on one preseason game — or two impressive runs.
Fourteen rushing attempts aren’t nearly enough of a sample for anyone to make a conclusion on what type of production Grice can have as a back. He was easily the best pass catching running back in the draft, and that skill has not been able to show so far this preseason. He had only one reception against the Cowboys. With Danny Woodhead’s two-year extension, there’s a less immediate need for a back who can catch passes, but that does not mean it is a skill that should be overlooked. Grice also has the ability to return punts and kicks with effectiveness, as he did in college. Oliver was not a kick returner in his time at Buffalo.
These aren’t points to say Grice is better than Oliver or that these skills make Grice more likely to make the team. It’s more to point out these decisions come down to much more than who had the better first preseason game. Oliver did, by a pretty decent margin, look great in game no. 1, but that’s not how these things get decided. Again, we must remember to stop making conclusions after a single preseason contest. It’s still early enough to be taking these reports with handfuls of grains of salt.
If the competition for the fourth running back spot is as close and competitive as has been reported, both players should be safe on the first cut on August 26 when rosters need to be reduced to 75 players. Still, that date is after the third preseason game, so there will be a slightly clearer picture of which player is in the lead. However, there will be the fourth preseason game between the August 26 cut and the final cut to 53 players on August 30. That game usually features little to no starters, so while we shouldn’t overreact to one game, the last game against the Arizona Cardinals could mean more than it should for these two players.