There comes a point in every athlete’s career where the rubber meets the road so to speak. The 2013 season has the look of that very moment for running back Ryan Mathews who has been nothing but a disappointment up until this point in his three-year career. The San Diego Chargers need to see something this coming year that tells them Mathews is worth keeping around with his rookie contract nearing its end.
Obviously the hateful messages that some so-called “fans” have been posting toward the ball carrier on Twitter are completely uncalled for, but it does go to show that there is some serious unrest about Mathews in San Diego. The back has played just 38 of a possible 48 games during his career with injuries impacting him at nearly every juncture along the way. He opened up on that topic earlier in the offseason, and showed just how much the inability to stay on the field and help his teammates has negatively affected him.
While it’s certainly a positive step for Mathews to be working to stay on the field, that didn’t stop the Bolts from going out and purchasing some insurance this offseason. Danny Woodhead was signed as a free agent from the New England Patriots, and he figures to be a serious threat to take carries away from the incumbent back from the get-go. Woodhead’s do-everything approach including being a versatile receiver out of the backfield fits perfectly into what new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt want to do in the upcoming season.
It could be argued that coaching is what has held Mathews back during his time with in San Diego. Norv Turner ran a pass-based attack that rarely (if ever) balanced itself out leaving most running plays to be predictable and easy to stop for opponents. This new-look offense should utilize the back more frequently and allow him to gain a rhythm which is an often underrated aspect of being successful as a runner.
There are plenty of arguments that could be made to defend Mathews’ lack of production to date, but the number that’s difficult to defend is 3.8. That is the average yards per rush that Mathews gained on his 184 rushing attempts during the 2012 season. If the former 12th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft can’t find a way to significantly boost that in the upcoming year, he may be taking his mediocre production elsewhere in the near future.