Headed into the 2015 season, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Frank Reich stressed that they wanted to be more balanced on offense.
They wanted equal parts running and equal parts passing, as much as possible. General manager Tom Telesco supported that goal by drafting a running back – Melvin Gordon – in the first round.
So far, balance has been elusive.
Through five games, the Chargers are rushing for an average of 92 yards per game (24th in the NFL). By comparison, Rivers is passing for an average of 318 yards per game – second most in the league (trailing the New Orleans Saints).
It can be argued that part of the problem rests on the shoulders of an injured – and ever-changing -- offensive line, though that isn’t the entire problem (see: passing for 318 yards-per-game). The Chargers have also had to play from behind for the majority of their games this season -- which typically forces an offense to pass, rather than run.
So, it’s difficult to critique Gordon, who is not only acclimating to the NFL, but who has also been kept off the field for chunks of games, particularly in no-huddle and red zone situations. Through five games, Gordon has rushed for 270 yards on 71 attempts, for an average of 3.8 yards per carry. His longest gain has gone for 27 yards, and we’ve seen the way he can break tackles and get to the second – and third – level, which should be encouraging for Chargers fans.
Gordon has also fumbled twice this season, one of those coming Monday night against the Steelers.
“The fumble was pretty big,” he said after the game. “We had big time momentum going down the field. It was third-and-one and I got the first down. He just got a good hand on the ball. It is a mistake that kind of cost us. I felt like we were for sure going to score (on) that drive. But (when) you make mistakes, you just have to bounce back.”
Protecting the ball is imperative as the rookie tries to build more trust. Learning to be effective on pass protection is also an area that needs more work.
Part of the “problem” for Gordon – (and it’s a good problem to have) – is that other running back, Danny Woodhead, whom quarterback Philip Rivers trusts immensely and who is a versatile and talented rusher, blocker and receiver. If and when Gordon gets more reps, he’ll find more rhythm in this offense and more of an understanding of his style and role with the Chargers. The effort is definitely there for the former Wisconsin Badger – players praise his work ethic and hunger – and now, it’s a matter of patience and preparation.
''It's a long season,'' offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. ''[Gordon] certainly is a talented guy. You just learn in this business to be patient and trust what you are doing and the people you are doing it with. He has all the tools to score a bunch of touchdowns and that is what we are hoping for in the coming weeks.''