If Mathews Continues to be Mathews…

Dec 16, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead (39) runs the ball against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald (91) during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the New England Patriots 41-34. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the San Diego Chargers running back stable consisted of Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley while Le’Ron McClain would hold down the fullback position. The coaching staff also held Ryan Mathews in high regard believing that his third year would be a monster break out season. Well, he broke something alright! What they didn’t anticipate was Mathews getting injured and left it up to the rest of the unproven or well past their prime players to fill in the role. Come on now, even when we had Ladainian Tomlinson we still had Michael Turner and Darren Sproles backing him up. We had an option regardless of how great our primary back was. Nevertheless, they didn’t prepare for the evitable and the Chargers suffered, they would only have three out of sixteen games with a rushing touchdown, one by Matthews and three by Battle.

The numbers in 2012, not including receiving yards look like this:

Attempts

Yards

TD

Yards/Attempt

Ryan Matthews

184

707

1

3.8

Jackie Battle

95

311

3

3.3

Ronnie Brown

46

220

0

4.8

Curtis Brinkley

39

115

0

2.9

Le’Ron McClain

14

42

0

3.0

Every running back with the exception of Ronnie Brown would average less than 4 yards per attempt. That’s not sexy nor does it display a balance in offense to scare opposing defenses. New head coach Mike McCoy and general manager Tom Telesco knew this and went out to find someone to change the pace of the game.

Enter Danny Woodhead. Many analysts are expecting a big year for Danny Woodhead and if Mathews can’t fulfill his duties for unexpected reasons we have insurance. Woodhead might not be the only reason to look forward to the running back committee, the Chargers also found a near replica of Woodhead in undrafted rookie Michael Hill. Hill rushed for 2,168 yards on 311 carries for Missouri Western, a division II school similar to Danny Woodhead’s alum. Hill’s average in his final year is an impressive 7.0 yards per carry including 16 touchdowns to go with his accomplishments. If Hill can impress during training camp, that could spell trouble for Ronnie Brown who is expected to lockdown the third running back spot.

Just to add some perspective to what Danny Woodhead can offer, below are his college rushing numbers for his final two years 2006 and 2007, as well as his three years in New England.

Danny Woodhead

Attempts

Yards

TD

Yards/Attempt

College 2006

344

2756

34

8.0

College 2007

250

1597

21

6.4

New England Patriots 2010

97

547

5

5.6

2011

77

351

1

4.6

2012

76

301

4

4.0

Woodhead rushed just as hard as Hill did in college. Not to mention, as a Patriot his receiving yards total is just as much as his rushing yardage. A Chargers team average of 3.7 yards per attempt is nothing to goat about, this year we need the running backs to crash through the line and balance the ground game to take away the predictability the Chargers opponents have grown accustomed to. Rush, rush, fall short of a first down and pass on third. Watch for what these guys will do during training camp and beyond and making this team a championship contender again.

Topics: San Diego Chargers

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  • RussinSactown

    I like Hill for the third spot more than Brown. Yeah Brown can help more in the passing game but his legs aren’t getting any younger. And if Matthews is being Matthews, a steady diet of Div II college backs is just what we need. Tell Fluker to plow the road and have at it.

  • Adam

    Mathews can catch the ball. I say cut brown.

    • Nick in PB

      Agree Adam… Brown is a straight ahead runner who usually runs right into the defensive player! The only reason his YPC was over 4 is because he ran a lot of delays on long passing downs when the defense was playing back. And there were a LOT of those due to Norvs clever run on first and second down for a measly 2 or 3 yards and then face a third and long. They would stack the line on first and second down because Norv was so predictable. On the odd chance that we would run a delay, Brown would pick up 8 yards and still come up shy of the first down.

      • arnie

        It’s amazing how even the fans new what was coming.

        • Nick in PB

          Exactly… you’d have to be a pretty dumb Defensive Coordinator to not be able to draw up a game plan to stop the Chargers. That’s where lack of depth really showed. To be predictable, and not have to horses to flat out beat the other side, what’s that they say about the definition of insanity???

      • Adam

        Yes! And every time turner would march him onto the field on third down, he might as well have announcing to the opposing team, “we’re dumping it off to Brown”

        • Nick in PB

          Yup… true story!

  • Gunnar Martin

    Woody is possibly the most underrated free agent pick up this offseason in the entire league. I don’t think people realize how much opportunity/production this guy is gonna have. Heck, he might even be returning kicks at some point too. I’m totally getting him for my fantasy team this season.

  • Joel

    The chargers can only get better with their rushing attack, there are several quality free agent RB on the market even now if matthews gets hurt And a improving 0-line and quality running backs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the chargers become the best rushing offense in their division if Matthews breaks out

    • Adam

      Agreed! The broncos have a rookie RB, the raiders have Darren McFadden(nuff said), the only real threat for best RB in our division would be jamaal Charles. IF Mathews has a breakout year

  • Alter Ego

    Great article Lee. I am more confident with the RB situation after reading it.

  • miketuck

    OK, again Mr. Lee, where does a RB leave the credit for a great season. With the Oline, on every team never less the best. Mathews like Rivers were dealt a bad hand by getting Smith/Turner for all those wasted years. Jonah think about this, Turner has one of the more complicated offenses in the league. These kind of plays take time to call, run, and hopefully bare fruit. Now Jonah; look who had the worst offensive line the last 3 years, and still managed to pull out some great games the end of the season when all was lost. Do us a favor and look deeper into why a team is struggling. TEAM. The main foundation of all championship teams is a quality Offensive line. How fair is it for you to compare Rivers, Mathews or any offensive weapons season to others when they had nothing to work behind and the toughest playbook. It’s a recipe for disaster and yet Rivers and Mathews fought their way through it to their credit. Never should Mathews NFL career be judged at all due to kindergarden mistake that MANAGEMENT made. The Chargers will do just fine this year and their spirits should be flying knowing they have a group who knows how to build a quality team.

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