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Ryan Mathews will split time in Chargers' backfield

Coach Mike McCoy told Around The League earlier this month that he expects Ryan Mathews to have a great year and "be the guy" in the San Diego Chargers' backfield this season.

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Has McCoy already changed his mind about Mathews' role?

At the very least, McCoy is ensuring that Mathews earns the lead-back role through competition. Last season's starter has been rotating with the first and second teams early in training camp.

McCoy explained to Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com that he plans to "play the hot hand," allowing his starter to "tap out for a play or two" if a breather is needed.

"I've been raised with (Denver Broncos hed coach) John Fox in this league," McCoy explained. "We always played with a couple of backs. It doesn't matter who's in there. Keep them fresh."

Too much has been made of McCoy's comments in fantasy football circles. Fox employed a timeshare between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart with the Carolina Panthers because the talent called for it, but he's also shown no hesitation to saddle up Stephen Davis or Willis McGahee as a workhorse.

Sure, Danny Woodhead will play on third downs and in the two-minute drill because he's simply better than Mathews in obvious passing situations. But it's way too early for hand-wringing over a few second-team reps less than two weeks after McCoy made it clear that he views Mathews as his best runner.

Mathews still is just 26 years old and boasts fresh legs, having never carried the ball more than 222 times in a season. His 2011 game film was as impressive as last season's was underwhelming after missing the majority of August and September. With health as the obvious caveat, Mathews remains a prime candidate for a bounce-back season.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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