Ryan Mathews has not performed up to preseason expectations for those who snagged him in their fantasy football drafts this August. Doug Pederson has utilized a running back by committee backfield in Philadelphia, and Mathews has ceded snaps to Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, and Wendell Smallwood. However, a lot of these usage issues are due to Mathews’ injury woes. What else is new?[embedit snippet=”jeff-ads”]
Mathews is supposedly on the mend, and the Eagles are using him like a player rounding back into form. He went from 12 total opportunities (rushes + targets) in weeks two and three combined to 16 opportunities last week after getting a chance to rest up in week four. Mathews has been banged up all year and he hasn’t made much of those opportunities, going for a paltry 3.3 yards per carry. He’s wasn’t fully healthy last week, and his ankle injury has been described as a “lingering issue,” which means he may not be fully healthy this week. However, he is on the steady track of improvement. Every game this season in which he got more than two carries saw an uptick in his yards per carry, meaning he’s getting progressively more comfortable and healthy in the offense. As his health and comfort increase, in theory, so should his touches, and by proxy, his production. They also showed that even when Mathews isn’t their preferred back for most of the field, he rotates in on goal-line snaps and has an increased chance of punching it in. Even in limited opportunities, Mathews has a chance to shine.
However, this is more about the defense he takes on than Mathews’ skills. The Eagles take on Washington, who allow the fourth-most points to running backs on the season. Through the first five weeks of the season, they’ve yielded seven touchdowns, and that is without letting a Ravens back cross the goal-line last weekend. Terrance West instead had only 95 rushing yards instead. Before that, a running back each week had gotten at least 50 yards and a touchdown against these woeful Washington defenders. They are incredibly incompetent defending the rush, and they even made Shane Vereen look like a competent runner. Even in limited touches, Mathews will have an effective game Sunday.
Ryan Mathews hasn’t been all that great this season, and he hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity. However, he’s gotten better nearly every week as he works his way into the offense and shakes off injuries. If Mathews has the game he should Sunday, use the narrative and ignore the opponent to sell him for whatever you can get. He’s not that great overall but should feast on a great matchup.