The mini vacation was refreshing. I tooled around the lake on a paddle boat, tried some fishing and spent $44 on LeSean McCoy in an auction draft (good thing it was Behrens' money, not mine). Yes, even in the remote woods of Northern Wisconsin, MDS can find ways to draft football teams. Perfect timing too, because the Kevin Youkilis/Carlos Santana news would have had me sobbing for days. Instead of sulking over Youkilis and all the other injuries that plagued my baseball teams this week, I figured it would be better to talk about one of my favorite coaches, Norval Eugene Turner, the track history he has with his running backs and Ryan Mathews' potential for the 2010 season.
Quick coaching history: offensive coordinator with the Cowboys 1992-1993, head coach with the Redskins 1994-2000, offensive coordinator with the Chargers in 2001, offensive coordinator with the Dolphins 2002-2003, head coach with the Raiders 2004-2005, offensive coordinator with the 49ers in 2006, head coach with the Chargers 2007-present.
It's pretty clear, Norv likes to build his offense around a strong ground game. In his 18 seasons in the NFL as a head coach and offensive coordinator, Norv Turner running backs have had 13 seasons of double digit touchdowns. Eight times has a Norv Turner RB reached 300 carries and nine times has one hauled in 50 or more receptions. If we ignore the two seasons of Terry Allen's eroding knees, the Ricky Ervins experiment and the year of Amos Zereoue, a Norv Turner RB averages 320 carries, 1,363 yards rushing, 47 receptions, 342 yards receiving and 13 TD. Now that is a productive RB.
QUESTION : You were here (as offensive coordinator) when LaDainian Tomlinson was a rookie. He had 339 carries that season. Do you see Ryan Mathews carrying that much, or because you have Darren Sproles will Mathews’ transition be different?
ANSWER: I’ve thought a lot about this, because it is different. When LT got here this was not a good football team. There were three or four guys you could really lean on. We leaned on him hard. We’re a lot better team now. Ryan is going to have a real impact, but I’m not sure we’re going to have to put everything on his shoulders like we did LT.
QUESTION: How many carries would you think Mathews would have as a rookie?
ANSWER : That is so hard to say, because there are games that come up like the Tennessee game and the Denver game (last season) where you run the ball 40 times. I’d like every game to be that way. Unfortunately, it’s not. But I would expect Ryan to have 250 carries and 40 catches, something like that. That’s obviously saying Darren is going to have the same role he’s had.
Some people were initially shocked by the high volume of touches, but if Mathews plays the full 16 game slate, those 290 touches would be the lowest total for any RB under Norv in a full season. The lowest currently being LDT with 344 touches in 2008. Mathews was the most complete back coming out of the draft and the situation is superb. Rivers is an excellent QB who should be able to get the offense down field and the Chargers will be looking for someone to pick up the slack left behind by Vincent Jackson. I'm looking for Mathews to easily hit the 300 touch barrier and provide a strong presence near the goal line. Forecast: 270 carries, 1200 yards rushing, 40 receptions, 325 yards receiving, 12 TD with the potential for more. Some people whine and cry about Mathews being an "unproven" rookie who hasn't done anything in the NFL, but if you ask me, there isn't a safer choice than a Norv Turner RB (assuming he is healthy and not in the twilight of his career).