Ryan Mathews has the talent to be a premier running back, and one of the dominant players we talk about as the anchor of his offense. His major flaw — his inability to stay healthy after missing eight of the 35 games he’s been eligible to play — is well known and has received intense scrutiny. He’s fragile, and has the combustibility of some foreign, yet to be invented material which exceeds the easy breakage of glass.

We shall call this material Ryan Mathews, and its only purpose is to aggravate you. But you, the Mathews owner, can sometimes overlook his upside while you drown in your sea of pity and angst. When he’s healthy and when he’s a fully functioning human, Mathews can be highly productive. Despite missing two games last year he still had his first 1,000-yard rushing season while adding 455 more yards through the air, and he scored six times. He’s pretty good.

Like the child you’ve brought into this world or the spouse you chose to support in sickness and in health, you accept Mathews despite his injury flaw. However, there’s another flaw which will not be tolerated in fantasy or reality, because in both real life and your fake football existence, this flaw can actually hurt you far more than an injury.

You see, when Mathews is hurt, you can plan for that. You can draft heavily at running back anticipating an absence, or you can handcuff a backup to him. But when he continually fumbles and rips points away from your team routinely, nothing can be done.

Fumbling is a continued problem for Mathews, and while it was rather nice of him to hurry back from his broken clavicle, it was then quite jerk-ish when he fumbled in his first game back this past Sunday. Through just 27 career games he’s put the ball on the ground 11 times, losing six of those fumbles.

We’ve seen this movie before, and it’s about as awful as, I dunno, Shutter Island (supremely unoriginal, and highly overrated). Fumbleitis is a terrible, debilitating disease that almost derailed Tiki Barber’s career before he corrected the issue, and who can forget two years ago when Shonn Greene was set to be the feature back for the Jets and was drafted accordingly, and then he fumbled twice in the first quarter on opening night against the Ravens. That earned him a cold seat in Rex Ryan’s doghouse, and it swung the door wide open for a platoon and LaDanian Tomlinson’s late-career renaissance.

Thankfully there’s no one who’s remotely respectable behind Mathews on the Chargers’ RB depth chart to threaten his workload even if his fumbling continues, a painful lesson the Chargers learned during his two-game absence. But that doesn’t mean they won’t get somebody out of desperation, or even move Mathews in the future.

Read GM A.J. Smith’s comments and be worried, keeper league Mathews owners.

“I am very concerned, and it has to stop. I believe you can improve in ball security. And no one works any harder in trying to get better than Ryan. However, if it continues he will play less.”

“Extremely talented players like Ryan get multiple opportunities to improve. What happens to fumblers is, first, they play less. Second, if it continues while they’re playing on a limited basis, then you don’t play for a while and you get to sit and think about it.

“Third, when you get the call to go back on the field and the fumbling continues, then you will be somebody else’s fumbler.”

Ugh. Don Billingsley’s father has a fumble-fixing suggestion.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • Think you screwed up your draft? Hell, at least that’s fake. Look how badly college recruiters messed up in 2007. [The Big Lead]
  • Torrey Smith limped off the field last night in the fourth quarter. But don’t worry, he’s fine. [PFT]
  • The myth of Joe Flacco. [Bill Barnwell]
  • We’ll discuss the fallout from last night’s game further with far more anger shortly. But for now know that Dennis Pitta led the Ravens in targets prior to Thursday, and then his name didn’t even appear on the stat sheet after Baltimore’s win over Cleveland. Please ensure there’s a bucket nearby for your tears. [Rotoworld]