Make-or-break season for two AFC West RBs?

July, 2, 2013
7/02/13
7:20
PM ET
It’s been no secret on this blog that it is going to be a pressure-filled season for high-profile running backs Darren McFadden of Oakland and Ryan Mathews of San Diego.

We’ve talked often that this season is vital for both players. Tuesday, on ESPN’s NFL32, host Wendi Nix, asked the show’s three analysts to name their one player in the NFL, regardless of position, who is entering a make-or-break season. Chris Mortensen selected Mathews and Damien Woody chose McFadden. The other analyst, Mark Schreleth, chose New York Giants’ cornerback Prince Amukamara.

I don’t think it is outlandish that the two AFC West players were selected. There is no doubt, they are entering crucial seasons.

McFadden is entering his contract year. He has missed, at least, three games in all five of his NFL seasons. If he can’t stay healthy or bounce back from a subpar 2012 season, the Raiders will surely move on.

The same thing goes for Mathews. The No. 12 overall draft pick of the 2010 draft has been hampered by injuries in his three NFL seasons. Like McFadden, Mathews has big ability, but if he can’t stay healthy, the Chargers will move away from him.

It’s interesting to note that the struggles of both of these players are being watched so closely on a league-wide level.

UDATE: The Oakland Raiders and former quarterback JaMarcus Russell have settled a long dispute over his contract. The Raiders owe him $3 million. It’s just another reminder of the disaster that was the Russell era in Oakland.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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