Chargers coach Mike McCoy praises Ryan Mathews for preseason performance

Harry How

The running back's impressive night against the Bears has the Chargers coaching staff optimistic about his 2013 season.

Ryan Mathews suffered through injuries and ineffectiveness during his worst year as a pro last season, but the San Diego Chargers are hoping their running back can return to the form that made him their first-round pick in 2010. If the fourth-year back's play against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night was any indication, that may happen sooner rather than later.

Mathews didn't blow anyone away with his 45 yards on nine carries during the Chargers' 33-28 preseason loss to the Bears, but his healthy 5 yards per carry average was enough to draw praise from head coach Mike McCoy.

"The way that (he) ran the ball was outstanding," McCoy told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "We ran the ball efficiently tonight. I think the way he's running the football (is) what we're looking for in our back."

Since being selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Mathews has had an up-and-down career hampered by a myriad of injuries. He's missed ten games in just three years in the league, including four during his rookie season. Mathews broke out during his sophomore campaign, earning Pro Bowl honors after breaking the 1,000-yard rushing mark and reaching the end zone six times.

Mathews' momentum faltered in 2012, however, when he missed the first two weeks of the season with a broken right clavicle. His season then came to early end in December after he broke the opposite clavicle and finished the year with only one touchdown and an unimpressive 3.8 YPC average.

If Mathews can stay healthy in 2013, the talented back has a chance to return to -- or perhaps even improve upon -- his 2011 form.

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