Ryan Mathews 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 struggled last season when he had career lows with 3.8 yards per attempt and one TD in 12 games before his season ended due to a broken clavicle against the Carolina Panthers.
Mathews was not the only one to blame though, because San Diego averaged 3.6 yards per attempt last season which shows that he was just a part of the problem.
San Diego’s front office signed former New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead this year, and he will be Mathews’ primary backup. Woodhead averages 4.8 yards per attempt in his career and is coming off a season in which he had the same amount of rushing touchdowns as San Diego’s team.
Mathews averaged a career high 16.4 attempts per game last season before his injury against Carolina. If Mathews struggles in 2013, San Diego’s coaching staff should not hesitate to limit his attempts.
There were other issues with the Chargers in 2012 like an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks and a receiving corps that ranked 30th in yards per reception, but their rushing attack was the biggest weakness. This is a part of San Diego’s offense that has to improve if the team is going to be successful in 2013.
I expect Mathews to bounce back, but his injury history could determine the effectiveness of San Diego’s rushing attack. Mathews and Woodhead can be a dangerous combination, but an injury to Mathews could be a setback because the most attempts per game that Woodhead had in a season was 6.5 in 2010.