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(I don’t know if this is even an actual term. If it’s not, I’m taking credit for coining it.)
Mathews was often pulled on third-and-longs. Even at Fresno State, his blocking, particularly picking up blitzes, has always been an area of concern. With the season Philip Rivers had a year ago, this was a serious liability. Mathews has improved as a receiver over the course of his first two seasons, and this is another area where he should absorb the subtleties of being a complete back.
A well-placed screen pass can not only keep the quarterback upright, but break the spirits of opposing defenses in those very third-and-long scenarios. Becoming a better blocker will keep Mathews’ skill set on the field in those spot, and knowing just when to release into the flat and how far to run before turning for the ball are things that will follow. This will hopefully cut down on those passes that fall at his shoetops or get knocked down by lineman.
Just as a great screen can knock the wind out of a defense, there is nothing more dispiriting than seeing the quarterback miss barely delivering the ball to a back with nothing but open field and eager blockers ahead of him.
These types of missed opportunities will hopefully be few and far between for Mathews this year. The same could be said for his emergence as the featured back in San Diego. He’ll get every chance to shine this season,. and when things get tough, Norv won’t be as quick to pull him off the field. How Mathews works through old and new obstacles will be the difference in both his and the Chargers fortunes this year.