Allow me to begin this piece by owning up to the fact that I have been one of Ryan Mathews’ biggest critics throughout his career. Some of that criticism, however, is probably because of the expectations that me and many other fans of the San Diego Chargers had when he arrived as the man to replace LaDainian Tomlinson. Now that the legend of LT has faded into the background and the former first rounder has come into his own, perhaps those lofty aspirations placed on his shoulders will be fulfilled eventually after all.
Now there’s no way Mathews will put up the kind of numbers LT once did because the NFL is a different animal now where passing is king. But that doesn’t mean he can’t provide quarterback Philip Rivers with a reliable run threat to open up the aerial attack and make the offense as a whole more successful. In fact, it could be argued that Mathews’ renaissance rather than head coach Mike McCoy’s arrival is more responsible for Rivers finding his Pro Bowl form once again in 2013.
As for the cause of Mathews’ resurgence, it’s arguable that the main cause of him returning to his form from 2010 is the addition of Danny Woodhead. Having a complementary back that excels in the passing game is something that takes some pressure off of Mathews while simultaneously putting more of a burden on opposing defenses. If you recall back to 2010 it was Darren Sproles who played that role when Mathews was just a rookie. Having that change of pace back makes the workhorse even more successful when the carries come his way.
Mathews has officially had his best season as a professional this year with 1,111 yards heading into the final contest. His touchdown numbers are impressive with seven total which equals a career best, but what is most impressive is what he hasn’t done this season. Mathews has yet to miss a game due to injury for the first time in his career which puts to rest any lingering durability questions. He has also found a way to hang onto the football much better with just two fumbles so far despite having a career-high in attempts by a wide margin. These are both super optimistic numbers considering the concerns that surrounded his durability and ball security coming into the year.
There is still one final game left to be played, but it’s safe to say the season can be dubbed a success individually for Ryan Mathews already. He is finally living up to his status as a first round pick, and the Chargers are reaping the benefits. His ability to keep churning out the yardage on Sunday and beyond is vital to any hopes the Bolts may have of making the postseason happen for the first time since 2009.