What Does Ryan Mathews Really Have To Live Up To?

Paul PreibisiusAnalyst IMay 27, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Running back Ryan Mathews of Fresno State runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images


There is the perception going around that Ryan Mathews is put in a difficult position because he is following in the footsteps of a future hall of famer after San Diego traded up 16 places in the first round to snag him.

The reality is, the expectations pundits seem to be putting on Mathews may not exactly stack up to what is truly needed out of the Fresno State Alum.

Gaudy regular season stats are nice, and putting up 1,200-1,400 yards looks great on paper for a team looking to add to an already high-octane offense.

But San Diego is a team that has not had issue with the regular season.  Even with the league’s second-worst running game in 2009, the team managed to put together a massive run en route to the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first round playoff bye.

San Diego fans know that this has become Philip Rivers’ team, and will operate through him first and foremost. Where Mathews comes in is as an augmentation to keep defenses from either flooding coverage or keying in on the San Diego signal caller.

In other words, give the team an added dimension in the playoffs so they can handle the increased defensive pressure laid out by postseason teams.

LaDainian Tomlinson’s legacy in that venue is not going to be terribly difficult for Mathews to live up to, nothing like the hall of fame proportions he is presumed to be measured against.

For those that feel his 2009 12-attempt, 24-yard performance is out of form for the team, take this into account: Over the past three seasons comprising six playoff games Tomlinson had 47 attempts for 146 yards (or roughly 2.6 yards per carry).

Within that context, what San Diego’s newest back needs to do in order to reach expectations is to log at least 15 carries and average better than three yards per attempt while converting on a couple key third and short situations. 

That simple goal translates to what San Diego needs out of its running game to be a successful team, and that success is what fans are going to judge this changing of the guard via, not what numbers Mathews puts on the stat sheet.

San Diego has had its share of great running and regular season success over the past years. What it has lacked is any resemblance of that in the playoffs, which is where Ryan Mathews is truly expected to help San Diego take a leap forward.