The San Diego Charger’s 2010 first round draft pick, Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, is looking to be an outstanding new addition as OTAs continue on. He seems up to the task of taking over as the Chargers leading rushing threat, acting as a compliment to third-down back Darren Sproles.
The Chargers offense struggled to make plays on the ground all season long, ending the regular season ahead of only one team in the way of rushing yards per game. Many believe that their dismal ground attack was one of the keys to their disappointing upset loss to the New York Jets in the playoffs. They had a measly 3.3 yards per carry on the regular season, prompting them to trade up 16 spots in order to nab Mathews out of the grasp of the Houston Texans.
However, as more and more pressure begins to mount on Mathews, it is becoming more and more apparent that Mathews may not be what fans are hoping for: a Ladainian Tomlinson clone.
The holder of the NCAA single-game rushing yards record, the NFL single-season rushing touchdowns record, along with many, many other records, Tomlinson has far exceeded any expectations that were held on him when he was drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. Possibly one of the best running backs in NFL history, comparing to all-time greats such as Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders, Tomlinson has earned his legacy and candidacy as a future Hall-of-Famer.
In Mathews’ senior year, he was able to break the single-season rushing yards record by scampering for 1,808 yards. His 39 career rushing touchdowns broke the school record. However, Fresno State isn’t exactly known for its running backs, somewhat hindering the significance of these records… Their only other standout runner in school history was Michael Pittman, who is currently playing in the UFL.
Although these numbers are quite impressive, they certainly aren’t worthy of comparisons to Tomlinson. Unfortunately for Mathews, that’s the exact player that everyone is expecting him to be. He’s an exceptional running back who should be a cornerstone in the Charger offense for many years to come, but he will never truly get the respect that he deserves.
The shadow of being Ladainian Tomlinson’s replacement will forever dim the bright light that is Mathews’ future.