Ryan Mathews' preseason lasted a whopping one carry. Yep, that's it. One (expletive) five-yard sweep to the right. Game over, for now.
Originally thought to be relatively minor, the hyped first-round pick, a popular top-five selection in "expert" circles, suffered a broken clavicle. He is expected to miss up to six weeks.
Apparently the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Injures have tarnished Mathews' reputation since he entered the league in 2010. Numerous nicks and scrapes along with a nasty case of fumbilitis stunted his growth. Pumped excessively as a rookie, he flashed occasional brilliance. Last year he was outpaced by Mike Tolbert for roughly half the season before turning it on down the homestretch. Over the final five weeks of the regular season, he averaged 15.6 points per game in standard formats, the eighth-best output during that stretch.
Entering camp, Mathews' star was blindingly bright. Expectations were understandably high. With Tolbert now toiling away in Carolina's crowded backfield, he was slated to become a centerpiece in an offense that launched the career of legend LaDainian Tomlinson. Motivated, ultra-confident and in incredible shape after a terrific offseason, all the ingredients were in place for a breakthrough, top-five campaign. It was no wonder why yours truly penned 1,000 hyperbolic words about his potential just a couple months ago. But, naturally, the glassy back couldn't survive one measly carry.
The loss of Mathews is the latest blow to a position still reeling from Trent Richardson's second knee scope and thinned by a growing timeshare trend. His absence, presumably for the first 2-3 weeks of the regular season, only enhances the value of workhorses Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden, who also has strong odds of fracturing a testicle in his preseason debut.
Obviously, Mathews is no longer a Round 1 commodity. Since he is expected to miss significant time, which, when considering conditioning, could limit his performance some 3-4 weeks into the regular season, he deserves to slip some 2-3 rounds and possibly later. For the advantageous, though, he is an exceptional value anytime beyond pick No. 36 overall. Again, the situation is ripe. And it's highly unlikely a committee of Ronnie Brown, Le'Ron McClain, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley will rewrite the initial game-plan. However, it's possible A.J. Smith could bring aboard a veteran like Cedric Benson or Ryan Grant to function as a temp until Mathews returns.
Lighting struck Thursday night in San Diego. Unfortunately, Mathews was holding a rod.
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