Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Chargers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at Qualcomm Stadium.
Raiders MLB Miles Burris vs. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews
Tale of the tape:
Burris (56): 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, third season, San Diego State
Mathews (24): 6-feet, 220 pounds, fifth season, Fresno State
Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has missed seven straight games with a right knee injury. While Branden Oliver patched holes in the running game early on, the rookie has been unspectacular in recent weeks carrying a heavy workload.
Mathews should provided a spark to the running game ranked No. 30 in the NFL, especially if coaches deemed the fifth-year veteran ready for a major role.
Mathews, who was a full participant in Thursday’s practice, is a physical runner who can slash into open space and make big plays when healthy.
“I’m sure getting him back in this situation gives them a boost within their running game,” interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “He’s a really good player. ... It does give them certainly another element that we didn’t have to prepare for last time.”
It could be a time for Mathews and the Chargers to get back on track. The Raiders run defense is No. 27, allowing 130.9 yards per game. It got a bit better for a while, but Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch brought tough times back two games ago.
Middle linebacker Miles Burris leads the Raiders run defense, which he coordinates better now than at season’s start, when middle linebacker duties were relatively new to him. He’ll get a full season at the helm with Nick Roach on injured reserve and could grow into a solid reserve with experience at all three linebacker positions.
The growth continues through hard work and dedication that is Burris’ calling card.
“Miles has steadily improved, and he’s helped our front mechanics,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “He’s improved shedding blocks and tackling, but we’re continuing to work on moving towards the ball in space and breaking quicker. That’s where he can improve.”