The Workhorse Back versus Running Backs by Committee
By Jonah Lee
Aug 21, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) runs with the ball for a touchdown in the second quarter against Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church (42) at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, Norv Turner (and myself included) believed Ryan Matthews could carry the bulk of the running duties deeming him a workhorse back. It didn’t pan out too well since Matthews has been injury prone since joining the NFL in 2010. There’s no doubt Matthews is a talented athlete and can contribute but he cannot do it alone. He was slated to replace the legendary Ladainian Tomlinson which is asking the near impossible. You can’t replace Ladainian Tomlinson and this concept is disrespectful to the great one. There are still records set by Tomlinson yet to be broken and perhaps some that never will. Matthews is not a bad running back but he’s the kind of back that needs to be placed in a rotational arrangement. Missing 10 games to injury and causing 12 fumbles in three seasons explains why.
I miss the days of having a three headed monster in Ladainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles. It was brief and it was the last season we had Lorenzo Neal knocking heads and steam rolling linebackers like ragdolls. Our rushing offense was stellar during those days. Last season, the Buffalo Bills knew what that felt like by running Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Tashard Choice. In 2011, the New Orleans Saints ran Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory to an overwhelming back field. There is nothing wrong with having too many capable, change of pace running backs. Defenses have to prepare for ever scenario. If the Chargers can pull together 3 capable running backs we may be poised for a return in the run game.
Ryan Matthews, when healthy can bring in a 1,500+ yard season. In 2011, he was selected to the Pro Bowl but not without the help of Mike Tolbert. Therefore, help is what he needs. Draft a running back that’s completely different from Matthews, maybe a bruiser or a scat back. This years draft doesn’t promise too many premiere running backs but the Chargers are notorious for finding talent in later rounds. Next, add a free agent that can bring it! Ronnie Brown did a decent job last year so I’m not going to scratch his name off just yet. I also believe that Mike McCoy has the ability to utilize Brown to his fullest potential. Reggie Bush has had his critics in the past but he is capable of 200+ yard games, this is something Matthews has never done and as a matter of fact hasn’t had too many 100+ yard games on his resume. Bush can make guys miss with his explosive first step and since being in Miami he’s had 4.7 yards per attempt (YPA) and over 1,000 yards from scrimmage each season. Matthews and Bush would be a nice one-two punch if the price is right. I’d also be very interested in bringing in a guy like Danny Woodhead, if the Patriots can take Wes Welker from San Diego and turn him into a star, why can’t we do the same? Woodhead runs hard and has a career 4.8 YPA and according to ‘Pro Football Reference’ had a higher value than Ryan Matthews last season despite limited carries due to sharing the load in a crowded backfield and having 10 less starts than Matthews. Woodhead would come at a much cheaper rate than Bush.
We haven’t had a top 10 rushing attack since 2007 which relates to not having a balanced offense since then. Enough is enough, it’s time to get cracking and run the heck out of that ball and maybe, just maybe have more than 4 rushing touchdowns this upcoming season!