- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.
So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.
But perhaps the most important player for San Diego’s offense is running back Ryan Mathews. The Chargers got an up-close look at the impact Mathews has on the team’s success when he was limited to just five carries for 26 yards because of a severe ankle sprain in San Diego’s 24-17 AFC divisional playoff loss to Denver.
The Chargers had morphed into an efficient, ball-control offense led by the physical running style of Mathews. The Fresno State product played a full, 16-game season for the first time in his NFL career in 2013, finishing with career highs in rushing attempts (285) and rushing yards (1,255) during the regular season.
The Chargers finished 7-1 in games that Mathews ran the ball at least 19 times during the regular season.
Mathews enters the final year of his rookie contract in 2014. Running back Danny Woodhead provides a nice complement to Mathews, with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield in passing situations. And Ronnie Brown is a physical runner in between the tackles. But the Chargers do not have a similar style runner to replace Mathews if he gets injured, which affects San Diego’s ability to operate at a high level on offense.
25mEric D. Williams
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