Ryan Mathews: Chargers are Wasting Time Starting Jackie Battle over Franchise RB

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent IOctober 4, 2012

September 30, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Jackie Battle (44) runs in for a touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) defends in the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers won 37-20. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

The San Diego Chargers need to start Ryan Mathews over Jackie Battle.

Right now, though, Battle is listed as the No. 1 back according to the Chargers' official website.

Battle did perform quite well against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, but that was also only Mathews' second game of 2012. Yes, the man has durability issues, and that cannot go overlooked.

Still, Mathews is the better fit, from a long-term perspective. Therefore, let's breakdown why the Bolts need Mathews in the backfield over Battle.


Age and Size Combo

Jackie Battle just turned 29 years old, and we all know that running backs don't last too far into their 30s. Ryan Mathews, on the flip side, will be just 25 years old next week.

No matter what type of running back a player may be, few last longer than three or four years once hitting age 30. As for Battle, his size frame of 6'2", 240 pounds definitely bodes well for withstanding a constant barrage of big hits.

That said, the roughest of game situations are when a guy of his size is most beneficial. Situations at the goal line, just inside the red zone or any time a key first down is needed are when the hits Battle takes have more actual impact.

Battle's age and the more bruising collisions he fights through will catch up to him quicker than expected. Now, he is still a great competitive advantage for San Diego in any short-yard situation. But his career will last longer if Battle is utilized sparingly.


Offensive Philosophy

Mathews suits the Chargers better in terms of fielding a more explosive offense.

This is a great two-back tandem, but an open-field player pays more dividends on medium-plus down and distances.

Don't forget, Mathews totaled 1,546 yards in 2011 and only missed two games. Not to mention he averaged 4.9 yards per carry. In a spread offense like San Diego, the Chargers need a quicker back out of the backfield to get yards after the catch on screens and checkdowns.

Battle has proven this ability, and has been reliable.

Mathews, though, does it on another level. Plus, Norv Turner's offense needs another back to make more plays for the passing game. Now that Vincent Jackson is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a true No. 1 receiver has yet to emerge as a complement to Antonio Gates.

Mathews fortunately creates mismatches against linebackers and if/when needed, can motion into the slot and challenge defensive backs. In short, all that helps create more single-coverage situations for the outside receivers.


The Need For a No. 1 RB

If the backfield is not given to Mathews, then the Chargers are the only AFC West team without an established No. 1 back.

Battle has proven to be a viable asset to the offense, but he doesn't force a defense to stack the box like Jamaal Charles or Darren McFadden. And although Mathews isn't on that pedestal yet, he possesses more potential to get there.

One reason is obviously age, and another is Mathews having been the No. 1 back since his rookie campaign. Sure he split time with Darren Sproles in 2010, but Mathews still out-gained the veteran in rushing, total yards and touchdowns.

Taking complete control of the backfield last season, we saw how productive Mathews can be as the No. 1 guy. Every team needs a third down back and/or Brahma Bull to slam between the tackles for the tough yards.

Battle is that type of ball-carrier for San Diego. In today's pass-happy NFL, though, Mathews allows for a wider range of play calls and utilization depending on the game situation. And the only way he'll develop as a franchise back is if given the opportunity to do so.

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