San Diego Chargers Running Back Ryan Mathews suffered a broken clavicle on his first touch of the 2012 NFL Preseason. Since then Chargers fans have been subjected to estimates that ranged from returning last week for game one of the Regular Season to not being healthy enough to play until October.
Returning in time for the season opener in Oakland against the Raiders was always a pipe dream and the only person that ever really considered it possible was Mathews himself. The far more pessimistic projection of an October return came from Dr. Neil Ghodadra. The basis was his assertion that the clavicle takes six weeks to heal and that "studies" say it takes an NFL player eight weeks.
At this point, Mathews has not been cleared for contact and his chances of returning in time for Sunday's home opener against the Tennessee Titans don't appear to be good. Still, there's a possibility he could be ready by Sunday. The question, though, is should the Chargers rush him?
The most compelling argument in favor of a speedy return is 1.6. That's the Chargers' average yards per rushing attempt without Ryan Mathews this past Monday. That number doesn't even capture how bad the running back situation truly was as nearly one third of the Chargers' rushing yards came on an end around to receiver Eddie Royal.
The Chargers' offensive line, especially the left side, is a very pedestrian run blocking unit. Undrafted rookie free agent, Michael Harris, and the rest of the line have done a tremendous job of keeping Philip Rivers up right through one game, but they've struggled to create any room to run for Mathews' back ups. Ronnie Brown simply doesn't have the necessary quickness to hit what holes the line is capable of opening and Curtis Brinkley lacks the vision to find them.
Watching the game there were numerous plays where you would see an opportunity develop only to be disappointed as Brown or Brinkley failed to take advantage. These are the times it was most clear that the offense needs to get Ryan Mathews back to have any chance of presenting a balanced offensive attack.
The danger, though, lies in rushing Mathews back before he's ready. If that happens and he suffers a setback we could be looking at an entire season of the torturous Brinkley/Brown show instead of just a month. What do you think, readers?