The San Diego Chargers believe running back Ryan Mathews is poised for a big season in 2012, and head coach Norv Turner has gone so far as to say he thinks the 24-year-old can lead the NFL in rushing.
It's not hard to figure out why the Chargers are excited about Mathews. In what was his second season in 2011 he rushed for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns on 222 carries (4.9 yards per carry). He also caught 50 passes for 455 yards. Those numbers came in just 14 games.
If Mathews can stay healthy he certainly has the natural ability to turn into a special running back. He has great speed, developing vision and can run between the tackles and break things outside. The key for the Fresno State product will be staying healthy.
With fellow running back Mike Tolbert now with the Carolina Panthers, Mathews will see his workload increase. And after last year's lockout, this has been his first real offseason to prepare for such a role.
To help Mathews in 2012 San Diego signed former Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain. While McClain will likely see some carries in the backfield as well, his main job will be paving the way for Mathews.
That should be a tremendous help as Mathews looks to take a big step forward in 2012.