Ryan Mathews is ready to be the No. 1 back in the Eagles' backfield this season.
Mathews made his Training Camp debut on Friday after being sidelined with an ankle injury he sustained while training on his own. He's entering his second season with the Eagles and will most likely be asked to handle a sizeable portion of the team's carries at running back.
Mathews looked strong during Saturday's practice, and offensive coordinator Frank Reich was enthused about having his playmaker back on the field.
"I know it was only a 10-10-10 day, but he just looks explosive out there," Reich said. "He looked quick. He was seeing things. I know it was a toned-down practice with no pads, but we're playing fast. He just looks good. He's an explosive physical runner."
Last season, Mathews finished fourth in the NFL in yards per carry, and second among running backs. He boasts great size for his position, listed at 6-0, 220 pounds, and maximizes it for his playing style.
"I'm not one to shy away from contact, but that's just my play," Mathews said. "I like to be physical and everything, and try to impose my will and I think that's one thing they like about me is my physicality."
After earning Pro Bowl honors in 2012, Mathews is looking to achieve top form again and Training Camp is a solid starting point. This season, the Eagles are transitioning from last year's rapid style of practice to a more physical one with head coach Doug Pederson's incorporation of live tackling sessions. Mathews, however, is confident that he'll fit right in. Although, he never experienced this tough brand of practice during his time with the San Diego Chargers from 2010-14, he believes it will be valuable for the team heading into the season.
"I think it forms a toughness about your team," Mathews said. "Going through Training Camp and tackling - it's hard. Training Camp already is hard but when you get tackled and have to bring yourself off the ground, it gets a little harder, but I like it. I haven't been in it yet, but it looks fun and it builds character."
Mathews feels comfortable stepping into the lead role at running back this season and credited the training staff for doing a good job of keeping up with his health and conditioning. Additionally, he'll have Darren Sproles, who has had two highly productive seasons for the Eagles both on offense and special teams, returning as a running mate in the backfield. Mathews said the two are "totally different backs," as Sproles is 5-6, 190 pounds. Mathews isn't worried about the coaching staff assembling a plan that will complement the two backs.
More importantly, the California native was pleased to take the field again and reunite with his teammates.
"It's been fun," Mathews said. "I'm happy to be back with my teammates and to be out there. It sucks being in the training room just watching guys go out there and work. I've got a lot of work to do, but I was happy to be out there."
As the preseason approaches, Mathews continues to build support from the coaching staff and figures to be a major part of the Eagles' offense right from the jump.
"You want to get a guy like that with the track record he has and the way he's run the ball over the last few years," said Reich, who was with Mathews in San Diego. "You want to get him the ball as many times as you can."