By Eric Schmidt

Third-year San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews has had huge expectations heaped on him before. As a rookie, head coach Norv Turner suggested the Chargers would try to get the ball in his hands 300-320 times in his first year. Injuries took their toll, and Mathews failed to live up to expectations. Heading into 2012, Mathews now is coming with high expectations once again.

Given head coach Norv Turner’s coaching history, he likes to ride a featured back in a particular offense and Mathews will get the call this year. However, some pundits are questioning as to whether or not he is mentally ready to assume the role as an every down back for an NFL franchise.

Yes, he crossed over the 1,000 yard rushing threshold last season, but he has failed to live up to the expectations which surrounded him when he was drafted in 2010 as the replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson. Injury issues have plagued him in his first two seasons and the team turned the ball over to RB Mike Tolbert as the team’s goal line back in the last two years.

Chargers fans would like to think that at this point in his career, Mathews is going to pay the dividends in exchange for the team’s aggressive move up into the first-round of the 2010 NFL in order to select him, would start paying off.  Scout’s Inc. Matt Williamson raises some questions about his ability to last the entire season as a featured back for the Chargers.

Williamson likes Mathews potential, but then again, who wouldn’t, but Mr. Williamson wants to try to get inside his head after a limited career with injury issues.

“”But, what we don’t know and I have huge questions about is his mind-set/toughness to be a true lead back. Few have that mental capacity to truly want the ball down after down and have the team lean on them when it matters most, like Emmitt Smith.”

Backs such as Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Eddie George, and others, are generational type backs. Couple that fact with the league’s movement towards split backfields and interchangeable rushers these days, it’s difficult to find a back which is going to touch the ball over 350 times a year and appear for all 16 games.

Norv Turner had Smith in Dallas, but the game has evolved and moved forward, becoming a passing league. If I were to wager on the over/under on the number of carries for Mathews next season based on 300, I’d suggest under. I could be seriously wrong, but, despite an earlier statement from Turner in regards to Mathews, I don’t see him leading the NFL in rushing for the 2012 season.

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