Originally written on Down and Distance  |  Last updated 11/13/14

The San Diego Chargers have not kept it much of a secret that this year they will rely on Ryan Matthews more than in year’s past. With Darren Sproles and Mike Tolbert gone, Norv Turner is expecting big things from Matthews in 2012. In late May, Turner spoke with the San Diego Union-Tribune on Matthews.

“I personally think he’s ready to take that next step,” Turner said, while moving his hand up to illustrate how high Mathews could rise this season. “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.”

Now Greg Cosell is weighing in on the what he expects out of Matthews in the upcoming season. Evan Silva of Rotoworld sat down with Cossell over the topic of Ryan Matthews and Cossell had nothing but good things to say about the Chargers back.

“I really like his skill set,” Cosell said poignantly. “Obviously, he came out and they traded up to take him with the 12th pick because they saw him, truly, as a foundation back. And that’s what Norv Turner likes to have — a foundation back. I think he’s got the skill set to be that.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Cossell continued, ”I think he’s quick. I think he’s got short-area burst. I think he’s got some speed. There’s nothing about the way he runs that I don’t like. We know he’s had some fumbling issues, and that’s the quickest way NOT to be a feature back. Because if you’re going to carry the ball 20-plus times a game, you obviously can’t put it on the ground. That’s not a profound statement. I mean, that’s not a brilliant comment. But obviously, you can’t do that.”

“But I think in terms of running skill set, if I’m to look at the backs in the league, I think he could be a top-five guy.”

There are question marks about Mathews that go beyond his on-field ability, though, and that’s no secret. Cosell indicated that he shares those concerns.

“So the question is, can he do it for 16 games?” Cosell said. “Because one of the things about being one of those kinds of backs, where you truly are asked to carry 17, 18, 23, 24 times a game, depending on the game, there’s a mental element to that, as well as a physical element. Because you have to have a mindset to be able to do that in the third and fourth quarter.”

Cosell expects those questions to be answered in 2012.

“A lot of guys have great skill, but when you’re asked to carry the ball over and over and over again against defenses that hit you,” he said. “… I mean, LaDainian Tomlinson just talked about this in an interview — about getting hit hard on every play. There’s a mindset that goes along with that. And I think we’ll have to see. This will be the year we see if Ryan Mathews truly has that mentality.”


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