As RB Ryan Mathews prepares to enter his fourth year in the league since he was selected in a dramatic trade up move by the San Diego Chargers with the 12th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, there is a nagging question in the back of every Bolts fan’s mind: Is Ryan Mathews officially a bust? There are plenty of arguments on either side of this issue so let’s dive right in.
NOT A BUST
It’s always good to start on a positive note and with Mathews, his recent success makes that an easier task. 2011 was considered by most to be a breakout campaign for the young runner as he broke the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time and really showed that he could carry the load as a feature back. His 455 yards receiving out of the backfield also showed just how adept he is as a pass catcher. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry during that season and took six trips to the end zone despite missing two games due to injury.
And that’s where we begin on the bust side. Injuries have been as big of a story as anything during Mathews’ three seasons in the league as out of a possible 48 games, he has missed 10. That sort of a number is enough to raise some serious durability concerns and make folks question whether or not he is injury-prone. Of course the high total of fumbles is another big problem with Mathews as he has coughed the ball up 11 times on just 564 career carries. When the number of fumbles is nearly as high as the number of times reaching the end zone in a career (14), serious questions have to be asked.
It’s easy to see why Mathews was such a highly-rated prospect coming out of school. At 6’0” 220lbs., his prototypical size combined with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes one believe that he has what it takes to be an every down back. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem premature at this point to say that Mathews had his best year during his final collegiate season at Fresno State where he ran for 1,808 yards on just 276 carries for a whopping 6.6 yards per carry average.
Writing Mathews off won’t happen this offseason, but it does seem like it might be time to at least consider bringing in another back to get ready for that eventual outcome. Mathews was a gamble by former General Manager A.J. Smith that never paid off and now that Tom Telesco is in charge, it might be time to cut bait. Considering his contract, it would be surprising if Mathews weren’t back in 2013, but don’t be surprised if he is on the chopping block next year when his base salary increases if the production doesn’t move up with it.
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