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Mathews working to take his game to next level

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Blue Bolt, May 26, 2012.

  1. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    Mathews working to take game to next level
    Written by

    [​IMG]

    Chargers running back Ryan Mathews squeezed a football against his sweat-dampened, cutoff gray tank top.

    Then he got to work.

    Set by set, one dumbbell exercise after another, the 24-year-old lifted with one hand, keeping a football buried into his shirt with the other.

    “You should see him with his shirt off,” said fullback Jacob Hester, Mathews’ workout partner. “He looks like Arnold back in the day. We’ve been pushing each other. Shoot, I’ve tried to kill him a couple times. He’s held with it. He’s gone every step with me …

    “I can’t stress how hard he’s been working. I expect him to be great. I really do.”

    Mathews is having one of those offseasons, the kind that build a buzz about a young player coming into his own, about the strong season that, in a few months’ time, could follow.

    With last year’s lockout, this is the first true offseason of the third-year veteran’s career.

    Mathews is attacking it, one arm at a time.

    He’s kept tight hold of a football during workouts, a tactic to help improve his ball security. But that’s just one improved aspect of Mathews’ game that he looks to showcase this year, something he talks about with a sneaky smile.

    “I’ve been working hard,” Mathews said. “Everything is going to show.”

    He won’t be short on opportunity. His workload is on the rise.

    The past two seasons, the Chargers’ backfield has been by committee, split between him and Mike Tolbert to keep a rotation that involved both players’ strengths. Tolbert was featured during the team’s two-minute drill and other passing situations. He also saw most of the work near the goal line.

    With Tolbert’s free-agency departure to Carolina, Mathews will assume most of that work. And it’s time, Chargers coaches say.

    Head coach Norv Turner makes a gesture when discussing Mathews’ NFL development, flattening a hand, lifting it a few inches into the air and sloping it upward toward the sky.

    Steady, year-to-year progress.

    “I personally think he’s ready to take that next step,” said Turner, who added he thinks Mathews has what it takes to someday lead the league in rushing. “That means, to me, the production goes way up, and he’s more of the guy that is on the field most of the time. I think he’s grown a lot in terms of understanding his responsibility when the ball is in his hand.”

    A good base for this offseason was built last year when Mathews rushed 222 times for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns, also totaling 50 catches for 455 yards. He averaged 5.7 yards per touch, second most in the league among players with at least 210 touches.

    The campaign allowed the Chargers to strip and compartmentalize all of Mathews’ game onto film — the sideline runs, the inside runs, the open-field runs, pass protection, route running and so forth.

    They’ve run through the good and not-so-good, deciding what to keep and what to hone.

    One key, highlighted area is making the last defender miss in the open field.

    In 2011, Mathews had 34 rushes of 10 or more yards, tied for third most in the league. But he’s yet to break off a 40-yard run in his career, and he was one of only two running backs last season to total 200 rushes without a run of 40 or more yards.

    “You’re not going to make the right decision every time,” said Ollie Wilson, Chargers running backs coach. “But percentages are, if he makes those decisions, I don’t know how much more yardage he would’ve had, but it would’ve been a lot more.

    “It’s getting to that point. I think he’s going to be fine. He’s well on his way from what he’s doing offseason-wise to have a great year. ... He’s in the best shape I’ve seen since he’s been here.”

    That, as many remember, couldn’t have been said last year.

    Mathews reported to Chargers training camp in July after the lockout and took a conditioning test with the rest of his teammate. He did not complete it.

    The enduring image is of Mathews standing with his head down and chest heaving, trying to catch his breath, but what Mathews remembers more vividly are his teammates’ faces once he lifted his head.

    “You just know you’re letting guys down,” Mathews said. “Guys are looking at you and saying, ‘Come on.’ It’s hard, man. You got to live with yourself the next couple weeks or days just thinking about it. ‘They did it. Why couldn’t I?’

    “I didn’t have the offseason workout like I’ve had this year. I really didn’t know what to expect. This year, it’s going to be a lot different.”

    By all locker-room accounts, Mathews is the consummate teammate, eager to learn so he can eventually lead. So when that moment arrived, it set him off — he didn’t want to make a habit out of disappointment.

    Over the next few weeks, he built up his stamina.

    During the season’s first five games, Mathews averaged 134.8 yards from scrimmage, third-most in the NFL over that span. In the sixth game, his thumb broke when it wrenched inside a Jets defender’s face mask.

    Mathews played the next several weeks with a cast on, and while fumble issues arose, he capped the season by averaging 5.6 yards per carry in the final five games played.

    Most Chargers players began working out at the team facility in April. Mathews began months earlier.

    At 6 feet tall, he now weighs about 225 pounds, roughly five more than last year. Much of the new muscle has come in the upper body, adding strength to better absorb and deliver contact.

    “You look at him, physically, he’s a man now,” Wilson said. “You look at his body and you go, ‘Jesus Christmas.’ It’s maturing so much from his first year because now he’s working at specific things to hopefully keep him on the field.”

    Early in the team’s ongoing offseason workout program, Mathews sat down and made a list of individual and team offensive goals for the 2012 season.

    He wants the Chargers to be among the league’s top offenses, he says. He wants their running game to rank in the top three in yards per carry.

    As for those individual goals, Mathews is keeping them quiet.

    He’s improving this offseason, and he’ll leave it at that.

    “You guys are going to see,” Mathews said with a smile. “You guys are really going to see.”
     
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  2. matilack

    matilack Take A Knee McCree!!!

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    All I can do is smile. :tup:

    I recommend muting...
     
  3. Lance19

    Lance19 BoltTalker

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    Talk about a "feel good" story, if you're a Charger fan.
    In the words of Bart Scott,
    "The circumstance renders me extraordinarily challenged to...wait" until September 10th.

    p.s. The story mentions Mathews' career lack of a 40 yard run (soon to be a thing of the past, clearly)
    but the vid Mat posted clearly shows RM ripping off a 56 yard TD...the hitch, of course, being that it
    was against the 'Niners...the final PREseason game...)
     
  4. Ikeman83

    Ikeman83 Werter Pöbel

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    I really hate that people feel the need to put "cool music" on all of these highlight videos. Simply because the music is there I can't watch them in Germany...
     
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  5. HEXEDBOLT

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

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    His running style kind of reminds me of good ole Chunk Muncie, which is good fumbles and all.
     
  6. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    The one thing he should borrow from LT, is the straight-arm. Mathews could've extended a number of his runs by employing that technique.
     
  7. matilack

    matilack Take A Knee McCree!!!

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    I think his strait arm is exceptional, and in that highlight reel you can see he uses it quite a lot. If I have one critique, and its the biggest difference between him and guys like Tomlinson and Peterson, its that when he's running full speed he doesn't change direction very well in the open field. Which is fine because its a luxury skill more than a necessity, but its going to be the difference between a home run and just a 30-40 yard gain.
     
  8. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    LT had one of the best straight-arm techniques I've seen...... Mathews isn't his equal.

    It's not just the ability to change direction at full speed, it's seeing the entire field, and anticipating where the defenders will be downfield. If Mathews can improve his recognition skills, then he'll break more long runs.
     
  9. matilack

    matilack Take A Knee McCree!!!

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    I don't know that anyone has ever had a strait arm like LTs, I wasn't comparing the two, just saying Mathews uses it very well.

    I know its not fair to compare, but if you look at the way Mathews is trending its very inspiring. In Tomlinson's best 3 statistical years ('02, '03, '06) he had 12 carries of 20+ yards in all 3 seasons, and averaged 344 carries those years. Mathews in 2011 had 9 runs of 20+ yards, and had only 222 carries.

    So as far as sifting through the garbage and breaking into the secondary they seem pretty equal, its making that last guy miss and getting the home runs that Mathews is missing to this point. And in favor of longevity, I'd like it if we could keep RM just under or around the 300 carries per year mark.
     
  10. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    I'm happy with Mathews development, even if it's taken longer than we hoped.

    As a rookie, he ran up on his blockers and was too impatient to let the holes develop...... he's gotten over that. Last year, he showed his immaturity in not getting in proper shape, since he didn't have the staff to tell him what to do. This year, he's in great shape already, and he's working hard to correct his ball security issues. If he can match LT's work ethic, then Mathews should have a great career (barring unforeseen injury).
     
  11. Scott the Rock

    Scott the Rock BoltTalker

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    You said it. If he can match LT's work ethic. LT had one of the most rediculous off season workout regiments ever. Walter Peyton esk. LT kept his legs in serious shape with up hill sprints on his property in the off season. If Mathews can realize the simple fact of the running backs sumwhat short life in the NFL and make the most out of every year possible, then we've got something. I believe this kid deep down wants to be great and will do what he has to. Pushing himself will be the key and it looks like he's doing that very thing. I'm excited to see what he brings this year. I just wish we had another Lorenzo Neal to help him out.
     
  12. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Mathews is no LT (in his prime).

    However he doesnt have to be. He is doing very well so far, if he cuts down even more on the fumbling he will be great!
     
  13. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    We have Le'Ron McClain....... hadn't you heard?
     
  14. Joy Division

    Joy Division Slightly-known Member

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    Mathew's straight arm is more like a brush-off. Those DB's that try to tackle him anywhere
    above his waist, are just kidding themselves. Just going off the highlight reel, the safeties
    on those defenses appeared to have saved a lot of 60 yard touchdowns.

    It's nice that we can compare him to LT and find legitimate similarities.
     
  15. Lance19

    Lance19 BoltTalker

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    I can't say I ever remember hearing a rb coach address the idea of teaching
    "making the last defender miss in the open field."

    But I love it...because that WOULD mean much bigger numbers for Mathews.
    So many times he seemed close to breaking one off...
    I think that it's partially "vision."
    Seeing the whole field, so that you can anticipate the line the defender should take...
    then making your cut so soon that that guy just can't react, in time.
    Obviously, LT was great at that.
    I thought Sproles was even better at that particular skill:
    he seemed to make the right move in space--to finish a big run--virtually every time.

    I'm not sure how much that can be TAUGHT...but I'm thrilled that they're trying!
     
  16. Ikeman83

    Ikeman83 Werter Pöbel

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    I'm glad to see that he's focused on holding onto the ball.
     
  17. Harley

    Harley BoltTalker

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    Whatever you never saw lt turn the lights out like he did Arrington from the pats
     

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