Is It Time For A New Battle Plan With Chargers’ Running Attack?
By Dave Thomas
Jackie Battle, RB #44
Weight: 238 lbs.
Hometown: Humble, Texas
Experience: 4 years
As the San Diego Chargers try to find something positive to take out of their 27-3 thrashing at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons this past Sunday, one time-honored tradition in the last couple of years is ringing true once again. That is, running back Ryan Mathews continues to cough up the ball at the most inopportune times.
For those fans impacted by the area blackout or who were not at the game, the Falcons jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Chargers appeared to be in position to tie and potentially take the lead on an extra point. Then, on what would be a telltale sign for the rest of the day, trouble ensued.
Driving with the ball inside the Falcons’ 10-yard line, Mathews tried to add an extra yard to a carry and was stripped of the ball at the Atlanta 4.
After reviewing the play, officials deemed it was Atlanta’s ball, meaning a potential Chargers’ score was never to be. From that point on, it was like the wind was taken out of San Diego’s sails.
The return of Mathews to the lineup was welcomed by most Charger fans, as the third-year pro out of Fresno State was coming off of a broken clavicle suffered in the preseason opener versus Green Bay. What wasn’t welcomed was Mathews again getting slippery hands with the ball. In 27 career games, Mathews has fumbled 11 times, with six being recovered by the opposition.
Is Turner Thinking A New Approach In The Backfield?
In comments to The Associated Press afterwards, San Diego head coach Norv Turner said the staff would work with Mathews on cutting down his propensity to fumble.
“So while we’re getting Ryan to where he can play an extended period and protect the ball, there’s certain situations we’re going to limit his exposures,” Turner remarked. “If we can do that, obviously it goes in our favor in terms of the percentages.”
So, was that code for Mathews may see his playing time diminish in the weeks ahead?
If so, perhaps Jackie Battle will get more touches, especially this coming Sunday when he faces his former team at Arrowhead Stadium.
Battle, who had a pair of 1-yard TD runs in the 38-10 rout of Tennessee a week ago, could see more playing time if Turner and Co. decide to limit Mathews, especially inside the red zone.
For Charger fans just getting accustomed to Battle, the former Chief joined the NFL in 2007 out of the University of Houston.
After the Chiefs cut Battle in preseason 2008, he was placed on the practice squad, then rejoined the team and finished out the campaign with Kansas City.
The 2009-11 campaigns saw Battle battling injuries, however he produced a career day in 2011 during a win over the Indianapolis Colts, rushing for 119 yards on 19 carries. Another injury toward the end of last season led Battle to being placed on injured reserve, then becoming a free agent.
Since joining the Chargers (one-year deal) this past July, Battle has certainly not gotten the reps at running back one would like, but that could change given the crucial turnover Mathews came up with in the Atlanta game.
While no one (at least most experts) is suggesting Battle, who rushed for 55 yards on three carries in the Atlanta loss, will become the go-to-guy for the Chargers, he definitely (along with Curtis Brinkley) should get some more touches. Doing just that at this coming Sunday’s AFC West battle in Kansas City would certainly not be a bad idea.
With questions about ball security surrounding Mathews again, it is safe to say that there could be a Battle to see who does the bulk of running this weekend at Arrowhead Stadium for the visitors.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.