bill-swift - August 11, 2012
Coaches are always leery about playing their first team players in the preseason. They want to give them enough action for them to work out the cob webs, but they don't want to risk losing someone to a major injury in a game that is essentially a glorified practice session.
At least one team always gets hit with a significant injury during the preseason. This year it looks like that team is the San Diego Chargers who will have to do without running back Ryan Mathews after he broke his clavicle against the Green Bay Packers Thursday night--on his first and only play.
The injury is expected to keep him out for the next four to six weeks; with his injury history the team is likely to err on the side of caution and keep him out at least six. While that would only cause him to miss the first couple games of the regular season it could trigger some more serious repercussions for the third year back.
San Diego had high hopes for the Fresno State Bulldog when they made him the No. 12 pick in the 2010 draft. The team was confident that he was the next franchise running back, and that the Chargers would not miss former stud RB LaDainian Tomlinson at all.
So far Mathews hasn't been healthy enough for the team to know. He has missed time in each of his first two pro seasons (four in a row if you look back to his last two years in college), and hasn't quite lived up to the billing. Many thought he would ascend to the upper echelon rather quickly. Injuries have made it impossible to see if that will be the case.
Eventually the team will have to start hedging their bets and either draft another running back next year or bring in a veteran in the interim. They already have Ronnie Brown, the former Miami Dolphin. Brown fizzled in Philly last season, but during his Dolphin days he was one of the better running backs in the league. It would not be surprising to see if the Chargers give an out-of-work Cedric Benson a call too.
Should Brown, Benson, or anyone else do well in Mathews absence the team will probably not want to make Mathews the focus of the running game anymore when he does come back.
Throughout the off-season the talk about Mathews was how he was going to be the man for the Chargers this season getting 300 or more touches. With this injury it would be surprising to see the Chargers still try to follow through with that plan. Should they choose to go with a running back by committee instead Mathews will likely never get the chance to prove he can be a marquee back in the NFL.
He'll be labelled "injury-prone" for good. No one wants a running back they can't count on to play.
Here's why the Chargers drafted him.