The San Diego Chargers know how important ball security is in the National Football League. They have stressed it with quarterback Philip Rivers, as he has worked to make better decisions on offense. But while Rivers was never in jeopardy of losing snaps or being benched, the same cannot be said for starting and oft injured running back Ryan Mathews.
Chargers GM A.J. Smith is a big supporter of Mathews on offense. San Diego drafted him the first round with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. While he has struggled to remain healthy, Mathews has also struggled to hold on to the football.
If it continues, he will struggle to even see the field when healthy.
Smith spoke about Mathews’ fumbling problems, and says that something will change. Either Mathews will learn to hold on to the ball, or he will replaced as the starting running back.
“It has to stop,” said Smith. “I believe you can improve in ball security. And no one works any harder in trying to get better than Ryan. However, if it continues he will play less.”
The Chargers are not messing around when it comes to ball control. That starts with Mathews.
“Extremely talented players like Ryan get multiple opportunities to improve,” continued Smith. “What happens to fumblers is, first, they play less. Second, if it continues while they’re playing on a limited basis, then you don’t play for a while and you get to sit and think about it. Third, when you get the call to go back on the field and the fumbling continues, then you will be somebody else’s fumbler.”
Mathews is still listed atop the Chargers’ depth chart at running back. He is still ahead of Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley, all of whom have filled in for Mathews through injuries this season. What is helping Mathews right now that aside from Battle, the other backs on the team have not exactly been lighting it up for the Chargers.
Even with that being said, Mathews will have to fix his fumbling issues and improve on his ball security. He is still likely to receive 15-20 carries this week against the Kansas City Chiefs. But if he fumbles, he could be pulled for the remainder of the game.
And perhaps beyond if he cannot demonstrate that he can hold on to the ball going forward.