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Norv Turner expects breakout year for Ryan Mathews

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The Chargers lost a running back when Mike Tolbert signed with Carolina, but that’s not giving Norv Turner much worry about his running game.

Although Ryan Mathews has spent his first two years fighting injuries, Turner has seen enough from his tailback to expect big things. Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Turner said he expects a “breakout, big-time year” from Mathews in 2012. With an average of 4.7 yards per carry over his first two years, Mathews has definitely shown enough skill to make that prediction come true.

Assuming, of course, he can make it through the entire season. That’s where the loss of Tolbert comes into play. The Chargers need to be sure that Mathews isn’t worn down to the point that he misses games and the only other tailback on the roster right now is the little-used Curtis Brinkley.

Turner has an answer for that as well. The plan is for Le’Ron McClain to be more than just a fullback in San Diego. McClain ran for 902 yards for Baltimore in 2008, but he’s carried the ball just 89 times over the last three seasons. They’ve offered a contract to Jacob Hester so that McClain would be free to play a more varied role alongside Mathews.

They’ve also spoken to Jackie Battle and seem likely to add another back to the mix. All of the decisions seem directed toward putting Mathews in a position to become the man in the San Diego backfield.