Is San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews Finally Realizing His Potential?

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2012

Nov 1, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) warms up  before a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

It's been a long time coming, but it appears as if San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews is finally realizing his full potential this season. 

Mathews, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft out of Fresno State had an average rookie season and has been battling injuries as of late. This preseason Mathews broke his collarbone and has only seen action in five regular season games this year. 

When Mathews is healthy, he is a great option as a feature back for the Chargers. It should be encouraging for the Chargers faithful that he has only carried the ball 82 times for 354 yards and one touchdown.

This is a great trend considering Mathews only appeared in 14 games last season and tallied 1,091 yards and six touchdowns. 

Against the rival AFC West Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football in Week 9, Mathews had an outstanding performance with 13 carries for 67. With increased usage, Mathews will surely flourish in the same way he has earlier this season.  

Much was expected of Mathews heading into this season, and he was a favorite for many as a player that should have had a breakout season this year. That hasn't come to fruition thanks to injury, but the signs of a franchise back are there. 

What Mathews needs now is help. The offense around him has been mediocre at best—outside of the performance against the lowly Chiefs. Philip Rivers has had another down year to this point, and with the departure of Vincent Jackson in free agency last year the team is no longer a major threat through the air. 

The Chargers organization needs to build around Rivers and Mathews, which at this point means upgrading the patchwork offensive line and adding some legitimate receiving threats at every position. Mathews cannot be effective with opposing defenses keying on him without receiving threats to worry about. 

At this point Mathews has to focus on his health while the team builds around him. He has the ability to score in bunches and be productive enough to see well over 200 carries a season, but he has to actually stay on the field. 

Mathews is only 25 years old, and over the past two seasons has more than shown everything and more the Chargers want in a franchise running back. Not only is Mathews justifying his high selection in the NFL draft, he's finally realizing the potential that made the organization think to so highly of him. 

It's no secret that Mathews had a plethora of untapped potential, and it appears we are finally tipping the iceberg with the talented back.