San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews Set to Return Against the Falcons

Ian PhilipAnalyst IIISeptember 18, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 18:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers carries the ball against the Baltimore Ravens at Qualcomm Stadium on December 18, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

If there's one thing we know about Norv Turner's San Diego Chargers, it's that whatever ails the team early in the season will be fixed by the 10th or 11th game of the schedule. At that point, the team becomes pretty hard to beat.

That's been too late the last two playoff-free years.

So far this season, I've seen one glaring weakness. You know what it is, the Chargers know what it is and opponents know what it is. The Chargers can't run the ball.

That handicap may go away quicker than anyone expected with the impending return of Ryan Mathews and the freight train-like display of Jackie Battle against a withering Tennessee Titans defense.

According to Michael Gehlken of Union Tribune San Diego:

Norv Turner said he expects Ryan Mathews to practice Wednesday. ... All signs point to return Sunday against Falcons.

— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) September 17, 2012

I had a discussion on YouTube about whether the running problems would go away once Mathews returned. Some viewers thought that the issue would remain, I feel the issue will quickly disappear.

Against the Titans, La'Ron McClain and Battle proved that the running back helps out the offensive line just as much as the offensive line helps out the running back. Averaging 5.5 yards on 16 carries, those two big guys saw the hole and hit it like a sledge hammer with no nonsense.

Meanwhile, Curtis Brinkley averaged 2.4 yards on 18 attempts, and it wasn't just because the Titans were fresher during the bulk of his carries.


What can you say about good 'ol Brinks?

He makes more cuts than a butcher shop, his runs break wider than a Nate Kaeding field-goal attempt in the playoffs and he switches directions more often than Kim Kardashian switches men.


That needs to stop immediately.

While Brinkley has more physical talent than McClain and Battle, his decision making is questionable. It seems like he bounces every run outside whether there's a need for it or not. Anyone who has followed Norv knows that most (or at least a good number) of his running plays are designed to go inside.

If the offensive line is blocking to create a hole in the inside of the line, they are pushing the defenders outside. If the running back decides to run outside, then a), the offensive linemen are going to be surprised (leading to holding calls), and b), the defenders will then have a straight line to attack (leading to one-yard gains or less).

It takes a special talent with both exceptional vision and Hall of Fame acceleration to be able to get away with bouncing runs outside as often as Brinkley does it. Then again, Barry Sanders is the all-time NFL leader in yards lost.

Brinks will be out of the league before he gets close to that record. He just needs to learn his limits and maximize his ability.

I missed the opening drive against Tennessee, but from the second drive on, Brinkley made a hard cut on all but one run.

What happened on that one run? He gained 12 yards, so hopefully he sees the correlation.

Norv Turner had to repeatedly tell Mathews to stop making more cuts than necessary before he actually responded. He may need to give Brinkley the same treatment.