Is Ryan Mathews The Answer At Running Back


December 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) is tackled by Carolina Panthers defensive back Josh Thomas (22) after running for a first down during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY SportsAside from the black cloud that is the soon to be released head coach Norv Turner and General Managaer AJ Smith, the Chargers brass will have more pressing decisions to make. The new regime will be in charge of making those decisions and while everyone knows the biggest weakness of this team is the offensive line one other area needs to be addressed just as heavily.

Running back.

Three seasons ago, AJ Smith wheeled and dealed his way to the 12th pick of the draft to snare Mathews. Mathews put up great numbers in his final of his three years in college but even then was an injury risk. Now in the NFL, his numbers are not great and he is a long shot to finish the season healthy. To this day, Mathews has not finished a 16-game schedule and this season has a career low in yards per attempt (3.8) and touchdowns (1) That is not what you sacrifice draft positioning to get. This is another reason AJ Smith needs to be shown the door with Norv. In addition to the Mathews fail, AJ brought in LeRon McClain from Baltimore who was once a featured back. McClain is a fullback who rarely sees the field. Smith also brought over Jackie Battle from Kansas City. Battle hasn’t seen much of the field either, but when he took the place of the injured Mathews at the start of the season, Battle put up good numbers, showed more explosion and scored more touchdowns (3) than Mathews has. Ronnie Brown has been the most reliable of the Smith signees at running back but even he is injured and out for the rest of the year. In true Smith fashion, the same old retreads have come through and yielded little to no results. The new GM and head coach need to show the San Diego fan community they mean business. Show they are not going to toe the same tiring line we’ve endured during the AJ Smith years and what better way to do it than to:

Trade or cut Ryan Mathews.

Bill Belichick believes its better to sell high before the player starts to decline and he’s been right. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance out of the man and it may seen harsh but the facts can not be denied. Mathews has not shown he can be an every down, every game back. When he is on the field his production has been disappointing. Mathews needs to go or be relegated to a backup role behind a more durable running back. Which brings me to my next suggestion. What better way to get interest back in the team than by bringing in a still dynamic former Pro Bowler? The Greg One offers to you and the future brass the name of:

Chris Johnson.

Chris Johnson has fallen out of favor in Tennessee. The Titans have up to five days after the Super Bowl to cut Johnson at no cost. Johnson’s nine million salary is off the books. No salary cap hit. Nothing owed at all. One less player and a lot more money to devote someplace else. Unlike Mathews, by playing on Sunday, Johnson will have played in every Titans game the last four seasons. In his rookie season he played 15 games. That’s called durability. Johnson is still widely known as one of the fastest players in the NFL. He’s ran for over 1000 yards every season in the league including 2009 where he ran for 2006 yards. Johnson is a threat to take the ball the distance every time he touches it and a threat like that in the backfield would open up the play action passing game of Philip Rivers. Rivers has shown when he has an effective running game he is among the elite passers in the NFL. Defenses have to respect the run threat and that buys Rivers precious seconds to get the ball downfield. Seconds he has not had since Mathews was drafted. Is it pure coincidence that the Chargers have missed the playoffs in each of Mathews three seasons where he came in as featured back? Rivers did not miss the playoffs with Tomlinson, Sproles or Turner in the backfield.

Johnson obviously could use a change of scenery and the Titans don’t seem adamant about keeping him. The spectre of getting him off their hands for NOTHING has to appeal to them as well. If Johnson does hit the open market, the new management should be the first ones at his door with a Brinks truck full of money. With a great wide receiver setup heading into next season, a great durable running back would be the piece that will get the Chargers back to the playoffs NOW, not later. What do you think Boltbeat?

To Chris Johnson or not to Chris Johnson? That is the question!