Chargers Roundtable: Should Ryan Mathews be replaced next year?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Bolts from the Blue staff discuss whether the Chargers should be looking a new starting running back come next season.

Hello, folks. Hit us with your thoughts on Ryan Mathews' performance as of late and discuss whether or not the Chargers should be looking for a starting running back come next April. I know this is a particularly juicy one for some of you - well, one of you - but do try to keep the length within reason.

David Marver

Mathews has no vision at the second level, hence no long distance runs. He can't pass block and isn't particularly skilled catching the football, hence his incredibly predictable usage (as John pointed out earlier this week).

But do we need another RB? No. Mathews is useful as a power back, while Danny Woodhead is awesome in nearly everything Mathews isn't. While it'd be nice to have an every-down back, that's neither a wise use of resources (as early round RB selections are of poor value) nor an area of need (unlike defensive back, offensive line, pass rush, etc.).

If the Chargers want to add a late-round RB next year, I won't complain. Just don't (a) count on Mathews to be more than he is or (b) use an early pick on a RB when we have much bigger needs.

Well said, Mr. Marver. It's certainly not very smart to invest early round picks on running backs in today's NFL. Let's move on.

John Gennaro

My thoughts are pretty similar to Marver's here. Using a high draft pick on a RB when it's one of maybe four positions on the entire roster where the team isn't on the verge of catastrophe would be nuts.

I would love to talk to Tom Telesco and get his opinion on running backs (which are, for the most part, a dime a dozen), since he was a part of the brain trust in Indianapolis that drafted both Joseph Addai and Donald Brown in the first round. I'd be curious to know how valuable he thinks starting running backs are and if his opinion has changed over the years.

However, this topic is most irrelevant. Ryan Mathews is signed through 2014, and isn't very expensive in the last year of his rookie deal. Releasing him before the 2014 season begins would save the team about $1.4 million in cap space, which they would need to use to replace him. All he has to do this season is not be a complete trainwreck and he'll be back in this same position, the "starting" running/power back that splits carries with Danny Woodhead, next year with the Chargers. So far this year, Mathews has been good enough.

Very good point there re: the potential cap savings. In the spirit of economy then - next!

Superduperboltman

I'm happy with his last two games. With the exception of the fumble, I think he did well against Philly as well. I've just been wondering his value to the team as well as everyone else. The first 5 games of 2011 he was phenomenal. Since then, not so much. It looks like the team, with it's new direction and all, is just using him less when they need to rely on Danny Woodhead's traits: the receiving threat and pass blocking. I haven't seen much of Ryan as a blocker, and he's rated positively in PFF for what little he's done in that aspect, as well as a receiver. It may just be Woodhead's the more reliable and established one.

In any case, he has another year on his contract, as does Woodhead, and Ronnie Brown. With that being said, for security, I think if a top-5 RB is available in the fourth or fifth rounds come the draft, than they should be selected. There are other more serious needs on the team, so using a higher pick on a RB is ignorant. Even if both Mathews and Woodhead are retained, you still need a third RB for injuries and special teams reasons. I doubt the team wants Ronnie Brown for another year, so whatever scenario plays out, I feel the team will select a RB at some point in the draft.

Thank you, SDB. Good thoughts. What say you, Kyle?

Kyle Posey

It's no coincidence that Mathews has had two of his best games the last two weeks when he's had the most carries of the season. He's a power back, they get better as the game goes on. He's running just as hard but the defense tires as the game goes on, so he's getting more yards after contact. I enjoy watching Mathews, but man, when you're in the hole 1-on-1 with a defender, do SOMETHING besides run into him. Anything.

While I disagree with the reason, I think this could be the last season for a couple of the fan favorite Chargers, that includes Donald Butler, and Mathews. As well as he's ran, the lack of trust on the goal line is very telling for me. I think, unless he goes on a seven-game streak of 100-yard games, the team moves on from Mathews and looks to draft a running back.

I do disagree and believe it's a myth that "drafting a running back early has no value." Go down the list of the top backs in the league, the majority are drafted in the 1st 3 rounds, with extreme outliers like Arian Foster and Alfred Morris.

That said, in a deep draft for running backs, the Chargers should be able to get someone relatively similar to Mathews skill set in the middle rounds. I'll just throw the name Isaiah Crowell out there. And yes, Mathews will sign somewhere else and become a 1500-yard rusher.

And I'm sure that team will be with one that'll make it as painful as possible for Chargers fans. Sigh. Okay, Nick, I can almost hear you chomping at the bit over there. Have at it, kid.

Nick Shepherd

Friends, Charger fans, countrymen
I come not to bury Ryan, but to praise him.
While the evil that horrible vision and instincts do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Ryan. The noble Marver
Hath told you Ryan is above average:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Ryan answer'd it.
Here, under leave of palm trees and the rest--
For Gennaro is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Ryan's funeral.
He was my frenemy, faithful and predictable to me:
But Marver says he was above average;
And Marver is an honourable man.
He hath ran many times in yonder pile, been captive many times in the open field to defenders
Whose tackles brought that ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Ryan seem above average?
When that the redhead have cried, BFTB staff hath wept:
Above average should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Patrick says he was above average;
And Patrick is an honourable man.
You all did see that against the Jaguars
He thrice fell over for no reason,
Which he does every game: was this above average?
Yet Gabriel says he was above avaege;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what BFTB staff hath spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
We all did love him once, not without cause:
His muscles on muscles inspire glorious thoughts of touchdowns
Yet his mind traps him to 4 yard gains
What cause withholds you then, to cheer for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Ryan,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

***

But yesterday the word of Ryan might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there.
And none so poor to do him reverence.
O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Patrick wrong, and Gennaro wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men:
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honourable men.

***

What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
That made them do it: they are wise and honourable,
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.
I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts:
I am no orator, as Gennaro is on Gennaro-ly Speaking;

---

That was, something? Figured I'd get dramatic with it. Ryan's not going anywhere. He's cheap and he's predictable. He'll continue to drive me crazy in the open field, but if he doesn't fumble or take stupid risks (don't jump sideways over a pile for a negative gain!) then I suppose all's well that ends well.

Whoa. That was completely unexpected - yet awesome at the same time. Thank you for your gracing us with your presence, Nicholas William Shepspeare.

Andrew Tschiltsch

Mathews is running hard this year. If he keeps doing that, while staying healthy and throwin' stiff arms, then I don't know what else Charger fans could ask for out of him at this point.

As McCoy said, this team will live and die with Rivers. Mathews just has to do his job, hang onto the ball, and the rest will sort itself out. Mathews will be here until at least the end of his current deal, but I think the Chargers will use a mid-late round pick on a back this year to replace Ronnie Brown.

I always appreciate when somebody keeps it short and sweet. Nice work, Andrew.

Jeff Siniard

I love waking up to BFTBs staging of Julius Caesar. Terrific job of civilizing your Mathews vitriol, Nick!

As to Ryan Mathews...

It's time for everyone (including myself, honestly) to quit complaining about all the things Mathews doesn't do well. We know he's not good in space, and his lateral movement is limited (at best). We also know that he's terrific between the tackles, very rarely loses yardage, and fights through initial contact. As long as he protects the football, he's an ideal short yardage and 4th quarter running back.

I think his value in gaining 3-7 yards consistently is underrated, especially in an offense which is predicated on staying ahead of the chains and possessing the ball for long amounts of time. Furthermore, he's been solid protecting the football so far this year. From what I've seen, he's also been decent in pass protection this year... and it's at least possible McCoy and Whisenhunt are setting up tendencies now to exploit in the 2nd half of the season.

As far as the 2014 draft, I'm not taking a RB early unless the player in the Chargers' spot is the best player available. Mathews has good value right now, and is under contract for one more season at low cost. If the Chargers want to take a flyer on a RB later on, I'm fine with that, but I agree with others that replacing Mathews is not the number one offseason priority for this team.

Seems we have a bit of a consensus building here. It wasn't Shakespearean, Jeff, but good job nonetheless.

SDNativeinTX

I am enjoying the season that Mathews has had, and really trying to take it for his contribution to the team this year, just as one of the team's backs and not whether he is justifying the trade up in 2010 to take him early in the first round. Thinking about some of things I have thought/spoken/written about RM 24 over the last 3+ years, I've had to ask myself if I would I have been or still be disappointed in his career if the Bolts took him as the 25th overall pick or even in the 2nd round? The honest answer is no.

Most have agreed that to compare Mathews with the prior 1st round RB selected by the Bolts is unfair; not too many compare with player that is a lead pipe lock for a bust in Canton. But you can't help but feel cheated that LT's replacement is not a game changing, team carrying stud of a rusher. And that is not fair either. RB is the biggest crap shoot in the NFL. Guys that were 'can't miss' in college and drafted like it and then live up to it are rare; AP is the exception. Guys that you would think have a tough time making teams like Alfred Morris and Arian Foster turn out to be league leaders.

As for RM's future? He is still relatively cheap going into next season, barring some catastrophe. That should not stop Tom Telesco from spending a 4th round or lower pick on a back or signing an FA with a body type or skill set the team likes. After that (2015), I think the team needs to consider picking up a back in the higher rounds, assuming that RM can be brought back at a reasonable price. RM's ceiling seems to be a power back that can get 4-6 yards most of the time, break off a 15-yarder once per game, and only get stuffed for 0 - 2 yards three or four times a game. That is fine for a change of pace back or the guy you feed in the 4th quarter to put away a game. Not fine for a guy selected 10th overall to be the big-gun, franchise back.

That's a great way to end us off, Robert. As always, don't forget to vote and comment below, folks.

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