Ronnie Brown Must Bring Chargers Balance with Ryan Mathews Sidelined vs. Raiders

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 24: Ronnie Brown #30 of the San Diego Chargers carries the ball during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings on August 24, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Ryan Mathews will be absent from the San Diego Chargers' starting lineup on Monday night, and that places a heavy onus the shoulders of veteran running back Ronnie Brown.

Brown will take on the starter's workload, and he must keep the Oakland Raiders defense honest by gaining consistent yardage. If he can't, the Raiders will sit on the pass, pressure Philip Rivers and make this game extremely interesting.

The Chargers can dominate Oakland offensively, but Brown must be in top form. The Raiders ranked 27th against the pass last season, and they didn't do anything in the offseason to change that.

On top of that, the Raiders know better than to disrespect Rivers. He threw for almost 600 yards against them last year, and they will almost surely favor pass coverage over run support.

That could potentially leave a lot of room for the 30-year-old veteran ball-carrier. He didn't have a touchdown in the preseason, but he did receive 23 total touches. He turned those into 127 total yards, so you have to believe that he can still play to some degree.

In his eight-year career, he's run for nearly 5,000 yards and 37 touchdowns. He's averaged 4.2 yards per carry, and that's all the Chargers need from him Monday night.

Rivers is going to damage Oakland's secondary. Brown doesn't need to play like a star, but he must use his 15 to 20 carries to generate forward progress. If he can break a few big runs, that's an added bonus.

San Diego will lean on their aerial attack, but a starter must still be replaced. Brown's production Monday night is necessary as a change of pace, and it could be the difference in a tight contest.

Even the best passing offenses need some semblance of a ground game. The Chargers are no different, and Brown will be charged with making sure their balance is maintained.