San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews finished his 2011 season with 222 rushing attempts, 1,091 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in 14 games. Mathews was on pace for 254 attempts, 1,247 yards and seven touchdowns if he played in all 16 games. San Diego head coach Norv Turner expressed that he wants to get Mathews more touches in 2012 and said that he reminds him of Ricky Williams. Williams had three seasons of at least 300 rushing attempts during his career.
An increased workload should increase the chances for Mathews to be in what was elite company during the 2011 season. Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 17 to go along with 1,309 yards. McCoy was one of six running backs to have at least 1,000 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in 2011. Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice, Michael Turner, Arian Foster and Beanie Wells were also on this list. Wells was the only one on this list who got fewer than 250 rushing attempts last season.
The departure of wide receiver Vincent Jackson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could increase the workload for Mathews because fewer pass attempts by Philip Rivers could mean more rushing attempts for Mathews. San Diego’s running backs and fullbacks combined for 179 rushing attempts in 2011 when one does not include Mathews. Mike Tolbert had 121 of these attempts to go along with the team lead in rushing touchdowns with eight. Tolbert signed a four year deal with the Carolina Panthers. The Chargers added 2008 Pro Bowl RB Ronnie Brown to be a backup, but he only had 42 attempts last season for Philadelphia. I expect him to have more than that for San Diego and Curtis Brinkley will receive more than the 30 attempts he got last season. I still think that Mathews will get around 275 rushing attempts in 2012 which could be enough to run for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.