San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews made the Pro Bowl during the 2011 season as an injury replacement for Ray Rice. Mathews finished his 2011 campaign with 1,091 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns which was fifth in the former category and tied for eighth in the latter category among AFC running backs. Mathews missed two games, so he was on pace for 1,247 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Mathews finished 10th in the NFL with 1,091 rushing yards, and his 4.9 yards per attempt led running backs in the top 10 for total rushing yards.
Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson missed six games in 2011, but finished the season with 934 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Jackson had an average of 5.5 yards per attempt and was on pace for 1,494 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns. This would have made him third in the AFC in rushing yards and fourth in rushing touchdowns. Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden missed nine games in 2011 and finished the season with an average of 5.4 yards per attempt to go along with 614 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. McFadden was on pace for 1,403 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles was an All-Pro running back in 2010 as his 1,467 rushing yards on 230 attempts was the second highest yards per attempt average with at least 200 rush attempts in NFL history trailing only Jim Brown in 1963. Charles had 12 attempts for 83 yards before he tore his ACL and missed 14 games in 2011. Mathews was seventh in the conference with an average of 78 rushing yards per game while he was 11th in attempts per game with 16. Vincent Jackson led San Diego in receiving yards and touchdown receptions during the 2011 season, and they lost him in free agency so this could mean fewer pass attempts which could lead to more rush attempts. It will be interesting to see how Charles plays in 2012 and what effects the surgery has on his explosiveness. McFadden was drafted in 2008 and has missed at least three games every season from 2008-2011, so this could be a factor as well in determining the AFC Pro Bowl running backs.
Mathews was the 12th pick in round one of the 2010 NFL Draft, and last season was the first time he led San Diego in rush attempts. I expect a big season from Mathews, but only time will tell if it is good enough to make the Pro Bowl should every RB stay healthy.