Will Ryan Mathews be the best running back in the AFC West in 2012?
Ryan Mathews of the San Diego Chargers finished his 2011 season with 222 rushing attempts for 1,091 rushing yards, six touchdowns and an average of 78 yards per game in 14 games played. Willis McGahee of the Denver Broncos finished the 2011 NFL season with 249 attempts for 1,199 yards, four TDs and an average of 80 yards per game in 15 games played. Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs finished 2010 with 230 attempts for 1,467 yards and the second highest yards per attempt average in NFL history for someone with at least 200 rushing attempts. Charles went out with an ACL injury in the second game of 2011. Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders was the best RB in the AFC West when he went down with a foot injury. In seven games, McFadden had 113 attempts for 613 yards, four TDs and ranked fourth in the NFL with 88 yards per game.
The recovery from an ACL tear could slow down Charles in 2012, and McFadden has missed at least three games a season since he came to the NFL in 2008. McGahee’s 1,199 yards last season were a surprise in my opinion because he turned 30 years old in October of 2011, and the upper 20′s or the early 30′s usually slows down RBs. I expect Mathews to get more touches in 2012 because it will help take pressure away from Philip Rivers and San Diego’s receivers. Also, Mike Tolbert signed with the Carolina Panthers, and he averaged about 152 attempts per season in 2010 and 2011 with the Chargers. This will give more touches to Mathews who finished the 2011 season 10th in the NFL in rushing yards and 16th in attempts.
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