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Chargers' Mathews a myth-buster?

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 26, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Chris Jenkins , UNION-TRIBUNE
    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 1:28 p.m.

    Mike Tolbert’s heard it before. They’ve all heard it before. To a certain extent, they might even buy a little bit of what they’re hearing.
    It’s usually around the day of the NFL draft that running backs -- and the men who coach them -- get an earful of how their position is the “safest” pick of all. How, unlike an offensive lineman or a cornerback or most any other player, you can select a running back, plug him right into a starting lineup, point him in the right direction and simply let nature do its thing.
    Myth or truth?
    “Yeah, you can jump right in, but you don’t really know what you’re getting into,” said Tolbert, the Chargers’ third-year running back. “Know what it’s like? Jumping into a pool that says 3-feet deep … and it’s really 12-feet deep.”
    Indeed, if Ryan Mathews’ head is swimming in pass protections and X’s and O’s and Y’s and Z’s, if the rookie zigs at first when he should’ve zagged, that’s also part of the process. Happens to the best of them, including the superstar, lock-cinch Hall of Fame running back that Mathews is replacing in the Chargers offense.
    “I’ve already told Ryan, 'The last thing I’ll ever do is compare you to LT,' ” said Ollie Wilson, the Chargers’ running backs coach, a position he also held when Tomlinson came into the NFL. “They’re two different guys. Hey, LT fought his way through the first couple of years, too.”
    Nine years ago, Tomlinson arrived as a multi-talented running back out of the Western Athletic Conference, drafted high in the first round, same as Mathews this year. The major difference: While Mathews came to a perennial division champion and Super Bowl contender, Tomlinson first joined a woeful franchise that would need him to be its anything and everything for a while.
    “He came in and he was The Guy,” said Wilson. “LT was good enough to handle that, though. Ryan doesn’t have to worry about that. We’ve got Philip (Rivers), got people here who can score. We expect a lot of Ryan, he’s going to have to be productive, but he doesn’t have to feel like he’s The Guy. That’s the major difference.
    “I think that’s a great thing Ryan’s got going for him, that he’s got three guys (Tolbert, Darren Sproles and Jacob Hester) here ahead of him. But like I told him, Mike and Jake Hester had no idea what to do when they first got here (in 2008), and now I have no problems putting either in the game. They know exactly what to do.”
    Hester and Tolbert came into the NFL almost simultaneously, the former as a high draft pick out of the vaunted LSU program, the latter as an undrafted free agent out of smallish Coastal Carolina. No matter the vast differences in their backgrounds, they quickly found something in common: The quizzical expressions on each other’s face when stuff started moving faster in the meeting room and on the field.
    Then again, both knew before first donning Chargers colors who’d be getting most of the handoffs their rookie year, and it wasn’t either of them. Hester’s since learned a new position, fullback, while Tolbert is like a tailback in a fullback’s body. Obviously, with Sproles employed in myriad ways out of the backfield, Mathews was drafted to play the premier role in the Chargers running game.
    “All rookies hit the wall-- suddenly, like, boom -- and Ryan hit it the other day,” Wilson said about eight days after Mathews ended his contract holdout. “The things he was doing routinely the first week, he started messing up because we’d thrown a couple more runs at him. Like today. He’d gotten so attuned to what we’ve been doing defensively (in workouts) that he was geared up to handle that. All of a sudden, something changes and it takes a little time to adjust.
    “In college, when he made a mistake, he could get out of it. Now, as fast as these guys are, he makes a mistake and they’ll close him down. But he’s working at it, improving. From the time he first walked into the door to now, he’s been night and day.”
    Most likely, Mathews wasn’t called on to block a lot at Fresno State, and rarely was he used as a receiving target. In order to stay on the field full-time in a Chargers offense that’s clearly built around Rivers’ right arm, though, he’ll have to try to become as adept at pass-catching and pass protection as Sproles has become.
    Now, if it’s just a matter of what a running back does with a ball in his hands, those interviewed for this story said there’s truth in the popular notion that the transition for a running back from college to pros is the least complicated. So much is instinctual -- the explosiveness, the elusiveness, the speed, the vision -- that the “running” part in running back is largely natural.
    “See the hole, hit the hole,” said Hester. “You run, knowing where the hole’s supposed to be. If it’s there, go through. If it isn’t, make your own hole. You just run to light.”
    Easy. Well, no. When it comes to the rest of it, Wilson said, rookie running backs are “starting from scratch, babies learning to crawl.” Too, there are techniques to be unlearned. Hester said he was struck by how so much of his footwork with the Chargers -- starting with his stance and the very first step he took with the snap -- was entirely different from what he practiced over four years at LSU.
    Impressive as he was with the ball in his first two exhibitions, Mathews has had his “welcome-to-the NFL” moment, courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys. Specifically, it was speedy linebacker Anthony Spencer who blew past an unprepared Mathews and sacked Rivers. Rookie mistake.
    “I’m going through it now,” Mathews said, asked about the general transition and the difficulty of comprehension. “There’s so much stuff to learn, the terminology, so much they’ve installed into this. There’s just a lot. It just takes some time. I can’t rush stuff. That’s why we have camps, to get worked in. I’m doing OK, picking up stuff fast, but it’s still new.”
    Part of an old myth.
  2. Golfboy

    Golfboy BoltTalker

    Oct 2, 2007
    Tell me the picture in that first post isn't the heisman trophy statue... just stick your right arm out Ryan!
    • Like Like x 2
  3. AnteaterRaider

    AnteaterRaider Carpe Diem et omni Mundio Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

    Jan 19, 2006
    I'm sorry to say this, it looks alot like an LT run
  4. foober

    foober BoltTalker

    Aug 17, 2006
    with alot more power. LT was a slasher afraid to be hit. Matthews is more like turner with thinking he can hit tacklers and win. Which he has.

    but LT wanted to gain as many yards as he could for fame and fortune. Matthews just wants to play football.

    Matthews will wear down alot faster. So enjoy him for the next couple of years. He's gonna be a good one. But he's gonna get hit alot more and wear down alot faster.
  5. ThunderHorse17

    ThunderHorse17 Lone Wolf

    Apr 10, 2010
    What I was gonna say.

    Maybe its the visor and how 24 seems to go skinny on the 4 and looks just like 21, with just more leg mass.
  6. ThunderHorse17

    ThunderHorse17 Lone Wolf

    Apr 10, 2010
    Also agree with u Foob.

    RM looks to me like hes gonna be the Turner we never could have.

    Also to me far as body build, RM looks like another Pocket Superman MOJO MJD.

    AND if little ol Tank can pass block long enuff with all the cut blocks, im sure RM can get this part of his game down or better than havin to cut block at least. I cnat wait to see any 2 combo of these backs on the field will be pretty interesting what we will see.
  7. RM24

    RM24 BoltTalker

    Jul 27, 2007
    But this time he actually made significant yardage.....:lol:
  8. cranberry

    cranberry BoltTalker

    Oct 3, 2006
    This is the correct difference! RM is not LT

    But the coaches have to train Ryan not to get hit hard every play and to survive during a game. I don't want to have
    Mathews for running down the field, but to gain 4,5,6 yards
    to move the chains.

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