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INDIANAPOLIS — Chargers RB Ryan Mathews failed to stay injury-free in 2012 after lofty expectations were set by then-head coach Norv Turner. He broke both clavicles and played in 12 games, but the Chargers’ new brass still has confidence in the 2010 first-round pick.
“He is really talented, a really good back,” GM Tom Telesco said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “He has size and has run well. I think he can be a bellcow back, but he needs to prove that on the field by staying healthy, and I think that he’ll have a chance to do that. All the talent is there.”
Head coach Mike McCoy echoed the sentiment that if Mathews can avoid injuries, he can be the back that Norv Turner was hoping for prior to the 2012 season.
“He’s had some bad luck the past couple years with his injuries, but he’s a very talented back,” McCoy said. “We have to do a better job up front as an entire football team helping him out, getting him involved in the passing game, he can do a lot of different things.”
Combine the fact that the Chargers are thin as is at running back with Mathews’ injury history, and finding another back is key.
“These guys take a lot of punishment during the year. To have two backs — you’d like three — but you’d like two backs you can lean on so Ryan doesn’t have to take the bulk week in and week out,” Telesco said. “It doesn’t bother me what kind of style that is. We would like a complement with him, but we think Ryan can do it as the one back.”
San Diego finished 31st in total offense last season after finishing in the top 11 five of the previous six seasons. Mathews’ inability to stay healthy and be productive was far from the only problem. QB Philip Rivers threw 15 interceptions and lost six fumbles.
“The number one thing we’ve got to cut back on is the turnovers,” said McCoy. “You have to look at the whole entire package of plays, why were certain interceptions thrown, can the protection be better, can the routes be better? It’ll be 11 guys every play we're going to evaluate.
“We’ve already talked about that, the number one thing is to cut down on the turnovers, because (Rivers) is a very talented player with talent around him.”
Rivers was sacked a career-high 49 times last season, and the O-line may look very different in 2013 because of contract situations. A complete rebuild up front could be tough for Rivers, who was often under pressure with a veteran group last year.
“We’ve hired a great offensive line coach (Joe D’Allesandris). That’s where it’s going to start,” McCoy said. “We’re going to do the best job we can, Tom Telesco and myself, in acquiring talent and finding the best five guys to start. We’re going to do whatever we can to get the best 53 guys to help Philip have success.”