Ryan Mathews’ contribution to the San Diego Chargers is an integral part of the team’s overall success, making his absence in Week 1 crucial.
When the Bolts play the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football, running will be at a premium and the Chargers will be without their top back.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Mathews will not play against Oakland due to a broken clavicle.
San Diego would do well to exploit a porous Raiders rushing defense that ranked 27th in the NFL and allowed opponents to run for over 136 yards a game in 2011. Oakland also allowed a league-worst average of 5.1 yards per carry, including 24 runs of 20 yards or more.
In Mathews' stead, the Bolts will need to hand the bulk of the carries over to the 30-year-old Ronnie Brown who has not taken more than 20 carries in a game since November 28, 2010. Aside from his age, the fact that he hasn’t assumed that hefty a workload in a regular-season game will show in his ability to be aggressive when breaking through the first level of the defense and in adjusting to the physical toll of getting tackled at least 20 times in a game.
Brown is a professional. He was a No. 1 back earlier in his career with the Miami Dolphins. He is no stranger to starting games, but he won’t have the same impact that he did earlier in his career.
He had 42 touches playing for Philadelphia throughout the 2011 season. That’s as many touches as some dual-threat running backs get in a single game.
According to utsandiego.com, Brown will not be the only back getting playing time; fullback Le’Ron McClain will receiver some touches, but they will be inconsequential.
Philip Rivers will see his production take a hit, not necessarily because of the lack of another throwing option out of the backfield, but due to the one-dimensional nature of the Chargers offense without Mathews.
In his career, Rivers has averaged 227 yards passing and over one touchdown a game in 12 starts against the Raiders. In each of those games, however, he had the help of a top-tier running back, such as LaDainian Tomlinson or Darren Sproles.
In a rivalry game like Monday Night’s, a win is often decided by the most minute details in the game, like time of possession. Each of those factors will be altered dramatically in Oakland’s favor if it can halt Brown and the Chargers’ rushing attack.
It is much easier to stymie Brown and McClain than Mathews.