San Diego Chargers Must Not Rush Ryan Mathews Back

Ryan PhillipsContributor IIIAugust 14, 2012

Aug 9, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) runs the ball as Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk (50) persues the play during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

A lot was expected of San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews this season. But now that he's laid up with a broken clavicle there are questions as to whether he'll be effective at all. Whatever happens, the Bolts can't rush Mathews back from the injury.

In 2011, Mathews 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 were excellent numbers for a second-year back.

Now entering his third season, Mathews was supposed to have a big-time breakout year. He showed at the end of last season that he can be a legitimate every down running back and it was time for the Chargers to trust him with that responsibility. But on his first carry of the preseason, all of those plans went up in smoke as he broke his collarbone. 

Mathews has had issues staying healthy and on the field in the past. In 2010 he missed six games, and last season he didn't play in two.

After trading up to take Mathews with the No. 12 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Chargers expected him to be a dependable workhorse. That hasn't happened. 

The key now for the Bolts is making sure Mathews comes back fully healthy. They can't rush him back just to have a No. 1 back during the opening week. An injured clavicle is serious business and he must be allowed time to fully heal.

If the Chargers or Mathews force a quick recovery just to get back before the regular season starts, the results could be disastrous. The Fresno State product could re-injure it or, by compensating for it because he's not fully healed, he could injure something else. 

This offseason the Chargers brought in Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and fullback/running back Le'Ron McClain—all three guys will have to share the load in Mathews' absence.

And while they all need to step up without Mathews around, the Chargers need to trust their roster and not force their injured starter back too quickly. 

Mathews needs to sit on the sidelines and get healthy. Then focus on staying that way throughout the season.