Last season, Ryan Mathews showed a little bit of why A.J. Smith gambled his way in a trade to move up 12 spots to pick up the Fresno St. running back in the 2010 draft. Mathews rushed for 1,091 yards on 222 attempts in 2011 for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. He added six rushing touchdowns also.
Although the Chargers ranked 16th in rushing as a team, Mathews ranked 10th in the league in rushing. That's pretty impressive. What's even more impressive is the fact he was ranked 10th in the league in rushing despite missing two games and sharing carries with Mike Tolbert, who is no longer with the team this season.
Of the top 10 rushers in the league, Mathews has the least amount of carries of them all while averaging more yards per carry. That means that he did more with the ball as a rusher than Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Michael Turner, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, Willis McGahee and Steven Jackson. That's a pretty impressive list.
Mathews admitted he wasn't 100 percent ready in terms of physical fitness with the holdout situation and not much of an offseason. So he added some mass to his frame to be durable enough to last the entire season carrying the load.
With Mike Tolbert and his 121 carries from last season gone, Mathews will get a nice portion of those missed carries, as he'll look at breaking the top five in rushing as a running back.