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How will Ryan Mathews fit in a crowded Eagles backfield?

Get to know the Eagles' new RB from the perspective of a San Diego Chargers writer.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles weren't merely content with signing top free agent running back DeMarco Murray. Chip Kelly also wanted to add former first round pick Ryan Mathews to his rushing attack. But how will Kelly split up the carries in a crowded backfield that also features veteran rusher Darren Sproles?

We asked this and more to John Gennaro of Bolts from the Blue. Here are his answers to my questions.

1) What was the reaction to the Chargers not re-signing Ryan Mathews?

Meh. Ryan has always had crazy, best-RB-in-the-league potential, but he's also never really lived up to it due to fumbles and injuries. He was also paid very well because he was drafted before the Rookie Wage Scale existed.

I think most Chargers fans believe that the team can find a suitable replacement (perhaps one that's less flashy but also more durable and less mistake-prone) in the 2015 NFL Draft.

2) What is Mathews' biggest strength?

His combination of athleticism, power and balance is unmatched in the league. Physically, he's the best RB in the league...

He can fly!

http://cdn1.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1236163/ryan.gif

He can knock down LBs with a single punch!

http://cdn1.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1228881/chargers53.gif?w=600

He's difficult to tackle!

http://cdn3.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1253313/chargers72_medium.gif

He never quits on a play!

http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/229/files/2014/01/mathews.gif

3) What is Mathews' biggest weakness?

Sometimes, the things above get him into trouble... http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-RA11DrYsBaA/U-Q40GnFi2I/AAAAAAAAJVA/k2bZzfebgvM/s1600/3.gif

Mathews' fumbling problems are overblown by fans, but they do exist. To the point where he hasn't really been trusted in a goal line situation in years (you can blame his fumbling issues for why you know Mike Tolbert's name).

The much bigger problem with Mathews is health. In five seasons, he's played more than 9 games only twice. Even during those "healthy" years, he was usually battling through leg injuries that would knock him out early in a lot of the games he did play in.

4) How concerning is Mathews' injury history moving forward?

It depends on how optimistic you are. His injuries have been varied (knee, foot, collarbone, hamstring, etc.) and some of them were just freak accidents.

With the right training staff, he could certainly turn a corner and figure it out. There's nothing about him physically that says he is more prone to injuries. He's a strong, healthy man.

That being said, his track history in the NFL and college says he'll never be able to avoid getting injured for more than a few months at a time.

5) Mathews won’t be handling all the touches in Philadelphia because the Eagles also have DeMarco Murray. To what extent do you think Mathews could thrive in a non-feature role?

It's actually concerning, as someone who calls himself a Ryan Mathews fan.

Mathews has become a very one-dimensional player over the years, mostly because of conservative coaches. His pass-blocking is really rough, he often loses focus when trying to catch passes, and he's not trusted in the red zone because of his fumbling problem.

With the Chargers, Mathews was put into a role of "1st and 2nd-down RB until we get to the red zone." That job likely won't be open with the Eagles, and it's not like he's going to beat out Sproles as a 3rd down option.

My guess is that he becomes the "2nd half workhorse" that just pounds the ball relentlessly if the Eagles have a lead and are looking to burn the clock, and I think he'll be good at that, but I wonder how many games he'll finish with 4 touches for less than 10 yards.