If you're looking to place blame for the Chargers' paltry rushing game in 2015, don't point your finger solely at running back Melvin Gordon -- at least not when head coach Mike McCoy is around.
“I’m going to make one thing clear about Melvin: It’s not just Melvin Gordon with the running game,” McCoy said after the team's first training camp practice of the season. “Let’s make that clear right now. And I want to stop talking about him individually and things like that.
“In order for Melvin Gordon to have success in our system, the other 10 guys have got to do their jobs better. And Melvin’s got to do his job better, too. And he’ll tell you some things he has to clean up. But I get a little sick of talking about just one guy on offense when there’s 10 other guys out there.”
That one guy -- Gordon -- is looking for a little redemption after a rookie season that left much to be desired. Gordon, the Chargers 2015 first-round pick, rushed for 641 yards and no touchdowns last season. He had microfracture knee surgery in January, but says he feels as explosive and healthy now as he did before the surgery.
A little extra mojo doesn't hurt, either.
“I definitely feel more confident,” Gordon added. “I feel more confident about the playbook. I feel more confident in myself. I had a whole year to kind of figure things out. So you kind of know how the games are going to be, you kind of know how everything is going to be. So right now it’s about improving and bettering yourself for the team.”
Over the summer, Gordon trained with seven-time Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson in Houston, which helped not only physically, but also mentally.
“It was good,” Gordon said. “He trains really hard. He definitely pushed me. There were some other guys there, too that helped push me. It wasn’t just AP. But he’s a hard worker. And being a back that every young back looks up to, it was just good to learn from him … He told me when you’re tired, mentally don’t get beat -- don’t let that control you or be a factor in the work you put in. So I took that to heart and apply it when I get tired -- just being stronger mentally, to get through it."
His maturation isn't lost on his teammates.
“I just felt a more confident guy,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “A guy that felt a little more comfortable, and I think that’s key for a running back. You’ve got to be hungry and do all of those things, but if you’re antsy as a rookie runner, you don’t see things right -- just like as a quarterback, if you’re all sped up, you don’t make the right reads.”
With the Chargers rushing an NFL-worst 3.5 yards-per-carry last season, the run game is a glaring concern. New center Matt Slauson should help, as should a beefier, healthier offensive line.
"I don't want it to be suggested that we're just going to pound our heads against a wall to prove a point that we can run the football," Rivers said. "We're going to try to score. I bet there will be some games where we throw the ball 35, 40 times -- but the more balanced we can be, with the threat of the run and the complementary play action with that, will help us in the long run."
**Wide receiver Stevie Johnson was carried off the field Sunday with an apparent knee injury after making a diving catch. Head Coach Mike McCoy said they will know more about the severity of the injury on Monday.