|Chargers running back Ryan Mathews will face a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense on Sunday that is giving up a per-game average of just 77.2 rushing yards. (US Presswire)
The Chargers (4-4) returned to practice on Wednesday after enjoying four days off following their 31-13 victory over the Chiefs (1-7) on Thursday Night Football.
San Diego is hopeful the win will propel them to a successful second half of the season. However, the schedule will be much more difficult than it was for the first eight games. That includes this Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers (4-4), who appear to be hitting their stride with a dynamic offense that features former Chargers WR Vincent Jackson.
Mathews eyes opportunity: The Buccaneers have allowed just 77.2 rushing yards per game for the league’s top-rated run defense. RB Ryan Mathews sees this as an opportunity to make a statement. “It puts up a challenge for not only me, but the whole offense,” Mathews said.
Mathews was impressed with Bucs rookie RB Doug Martin, who ran for 251 yards and four TDs on 25 attempts against the Raiders (3-5) on Sunday. Martin scored on runs of one, 45, 67 and 70 yards. “Doug is a great running back,” Mathews said. “I played against him in college, so I have seen Martin a few times.”
Mathews is a third-year veteran, and his career long from scrimmage is only 39 yards. His longest rushing touchdowns are two, 31-yard runs. His longest run this season is also 31 yards, which came Thursday against the Chiefs. “There have been some games where I have left a lot of yards on the field,” Mathews said. “It’s my fault, it really is.”
Coach Norv Turner said Mathews is capable of leading the league in rushing this season. Mathews, however, missed the first two games recovering from a broken clavicle he suffered in the preseason opener. He has yet to rush for over 100 yards in a game this season and has only one rushing TD; and he has lost two fumbles.
“I still have a lot to prove,” he said. “I still strongly believe that I can be one of the greatest running backs and have my name up there with everybody else. But I got to start doing my part and helping my team win games.”
Two have first practice: G Johnnie Troutman (pectoral) and G-T Brandyn Dombrowski (foot) practiced for the first time this season. The two were respectively designated as “Returned to Practice” in a move from the “Reserve-Physically Unable to Perform” and “Reserve-Non-Football Injury” lists.
Tuesday was the last day for NFL teams to start the 21-day practice window for players who had been on either list. At the end of the three weeks, the players must either be activated to the 53-man roster or placed on the season ending injured-reserve list.
Turner did not sound overly optimistic that either would play this season. “Any talk about any of those guys playing would be premature,” Turner said.
Dombrowski said this is the first time in his football career that he has had to miss an extended period of time and admitted the experience has been depressing. “When you are in the training room you feel [bad] because you are on the team and not with your brothers,” Dombrowski said.
Troutman (round five, 149th overall) injured his pectoral before the draft and underwent surgery in April. The odds of Troutman contributing this season are longer than Dombrowski's because Troutman has never been through a training camp.
Brown shows progress: WR Vincent Brown (ankle) jogged onto the field and assisted the coaching staff in running a few drills. He hasn't practiced since he broke an ankle during the second preseason game.
Brown made history as the first NFL player to be placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list. This means Brown may come off injured reserve and play this season. He has yet to run routes or catch passes, but he does expect to make a return.
Practice-squad shuffle: DE Logan Harrell was re-signed to the practice squad on Tuesday. Harrell was released from the practice squad on Oct. 29 to make room for WR Tori Gurley. G-T Charlie Bryant was waived to make room for Harrell’s return.
Practice Report: OLB Antwan Barnes (hamstring) did not practice. SS Atari Bigby (quad), LT Jared Gaither (groin), DE Corey Liuget (hamstring) and LB Demorrio Williams (abdominal) were limited. CB Chris Carr (quad), WR Robert Meachem (hamstring) and WR Eddie Royal (hamstring) fully participated.
What’s next: The Chargers will practice in pads on Thursday.