The San Diego Chargers appeared to be on their way to making the playoffs in 2012, which would have been their first playoff appearance since 2009. San Diego started the 2012 NFL season with a 3-1 record, but went 1-7 over their next eight games which dropped them to 4-8.
A major problem in 2012 was San Diego’s lack of explosiveness in their rushing attack. San Diego’s 3.6 yards per rushing attempt ranked 31st while they were tied with the Oakland Raiders for last in rushing touchdowns.
Ryan Mathews had 45 percent of the team’s rushing attempts, but he averaged 3.8 yards per carry to go along with one rushing touchdown, and both were career-lows for him.
Mathews had a problem with fumbles in 2010 and 2011, and former Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said that the team would trade Mathews if he kept fumbling.
The one bright spot for Mathews in 2012 was his ability to limit his fumbles to two, after combining for 10 in 2010 and 2011. Mathews is capable of bouncing back in 2013 because he ranked 10th in the NFL with 1,091 rushing yards in 2011, and no one in the top 10 equaled his 4.9 yards per attempt.
Mathews has a history of injury problems which goes back to his time in college, but he was a first-round pick who San Diego’s front office traded up to get, so it is time for him to prove that he can be elite.
San Diego’s front office might not have the money to add a free agent running back who can split attempts with Mathews because they are $6.5 million under the salary cap. The Lighting Bolts need Mathews to be productive in 2013 to take pressure away from Philip Rivers and the pass attack.