The third preseason game gave us little insight as to who is going to emerge between Branden Oliver and Marion Grice. What we do know is that between Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown, the Chargers are developing a three-headed monster in the backfield. These backs give the Bolts plenty of options behind Philip Rivers in 2014. However, with Ryan Mathews set to be a free agent after the season, the Chargers are hoping to develop the running back of the future.
Marion Grice had the inside track at this role after being selected in the sixth-round of May’s draft. His ability to return kicks made him a likely roster candidate while he waited to get a more prominent role in the offense. Little did we know, undrafted rookie free agent, Branden Oliver would make a big splash during camp. Oliver dominated OTAs and stood out over the summer. His first preseason game included 64 yards on seven carries and a touchdown. Since this moment, he has appeared to be ahead of Grice on the depth chart, but the other rookie isn’t going down without a fight.
Grice had 36 yards on seven carries Sunday. Compared to Oliver’s 12 yards on three carries, the stats would give a slight edge to Grice for the game, but Oliver saw more reps with the second team. In an ideal world, the Bolts would keep one of these players on the roster and keep the other on the practice squad. Both players clearly have a lot of potential, and if one were released (with hope of practice squading) other teams may come calling for their service.
Oliver has been returning kicks for the Chargers, and his special teams value may help him jump Grice. But for now, we can only speculate. Here is a comparison of the Chargers two rookie backs.
Both players are going to see a lot of time in the preseason finale. Expect this game to have an impact in determining which player makes the roster.