According to U-T San Diego, Ryan Mathews, running back of the San Diego Chargers, has recently been victim to vocal abuse via Twitter. It is not uncommon for people to be negative on Twitter, but the tweets Mathews has been receiving go as far as to wish death upon him and his mother. Obviously, this abuse is completely uncalled for, as well as a total misrepresentation of most Charger fans. But even Mathews knows why people have been frustrated with is professional career in Southern California.
Ryan Mathews was drafted 12th overall by the San Diego Chargers in 2010. In is first two seasons he averaged 4.7 yards per carry and totaled 13 touchdowns. These numbers aren’t terrible, but they are incredibly average. One way to show Mathews’ disappointment can be with a comparison to C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills. Spiller was drafted in the same year, three picks above Ryan Mathews. In Spiller’s first two seasons he averaged 4.7 yards per carry and only 4 touchdowns (although not the feature back in Buffalo). After 2011, Ryan Mathews seemed better off than Spiller, although he still was viewed as playing under his potential.
This past season was supposed to be Mathews’ breakout year. He was finally going to earn his paycheck and help the Chargers contend. Instead he had the worst season of his career. Mathews ran for 3.8 yards per carry and only scored one touchdown. On the other side of the country, C.J. Spiller blossomed into an incredible starting running back with 6 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns. By comparison, Spiller is only getting better while Mathews seems to be devolving as a back.
In defense of Mathews, he played multiple games injured and every game for one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. This can account for why Mathews may not have had a stellar year, but its not an excuse for him to be playing at a lower level then his rookie season. Fortunately, Mathews is finally healthy and the Chargers made moderate improvements to the offensive line this offseason (although there is still work to be done here).
Next year will most likely be (or at least should be) Ryan Mathews’ final chance. He should break the 5 yards per carry mark and rush for at least 10 touchdowns to prove himself as a serious running back in the NFL. If he fails to reach these numbers, it simply doesn’t make sense to invest in his future. In this scenario, the Chargers would be wise to draft a replacement in the first round or try and pick up a player in the offseason. The Chargers don’t have many seasons left with quarterback Philip Rivers (age 31), so they can’t afford to waste seasons with mediocre rushing attacks.
With a new head coach and offensive coordinator in San Diego, 2013 may be Mathews’ year. Early indicators of this offseason point towards Mathews finally having the season he was expected to have. Comparing him to LaDainian Tomlinson is still light years away, but the running back out of Fresno State may come to surprise the NFL this year.