Mathews led San Diego in rushing attempts per game during his rookie season, but missed four games with injuries. He finished the 2010 season ranked 22nd in yards per attempt and 25th in yards per game among 47 players who had enough rushing attempts to qualify in each category.
The 2011 season was Mathews’ best when he finished seventh in the NFL with 1,546 yards from scrimmage, 10th in rushing yards and 12th in yards per game as well as yards per rushing attempt.
Mathews broke his clavicle against the Green Bay Packers last year in San Diego’s first preseason game and would miss the first two games of the regular season. He had one rushing touchdown and averaged 3.8 yards per attempt in 12 games last season which were both career lows.
The 2012 season ended for Mathews when he broke his other clavicle against the Carolina Panthers. Mathews ranked 23rd in rushing yards per game and 32nd in yards per attempt out of 44 players.
Mathews proved that he has the potential to perform at a high level as he did in 2011, but he is also injury prone and has yet to play a full season.
If Mathews struggles or suffers a significant injury, San Diego’s front office should release or trade him after the 2013 season. He has one year left on his deal after the 2013 season worth $3.1 million.
He would be a great backup because limiting his touches could prevent injuries and allow him to be more explosive. However, Mathews will be 26 years old after the 2013 season is over so I doubt that he or many 26 year old running backs would accept being a backup.
San Diego would be able to choose a running back in round one or two of next year’s draft if Mathews is released or traded. As the successor to LaDainian Tomlinson, who he looked up to, replacing one of the best running backs in NFL history could be proving to be too much pressure for Mathews to handle.