clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Evolution of Melvin Gordon

Tennessee Titans v San Diego Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It is my job to be objective. It is also my job to let go of any pre-notions I have about a player. I do not care if I am wrong or right about a player. I will tell you what I see is happening at the time and whether right or wrong I will learn from it. In Melvin Gordon’s case, both his final year in college and his rookie year looked the same. A player that took advantage of what was there, broke tackles, but wouldn’t make you miss at the 2nd level, and left yards on the field due to missing holes.

Watching Gordon transform into a different back has been fun. But watching Gordon “get it” has been necessary for the offense that is depleted with injuries remain above average. Last year we were quick to point out how bad the offensive line was. I don’t think anyone will argue with you there. This year, the line is averaging 3.74 adjusted line yards, compared to 3.18 last year. Both good for 23rd and 28th respectively. Simply put, there still is a limited amount of space for Gordon to work with. So where is the change at? It’s the guy who is carrying the ball.

Last year, Gordon would be content with running up the backs of the line when there was no hole there and hoping he falls forward. It was that or he would pit-pat or hesitate as he’s trying to decide where to go. A no-no with a line as poor as San Diego had. I would say week 1 and this last month, Gordon gone from “let’s see if I can get 3 yards” to “I’m going to get these yards and if you’re in my way I’m running you the hell over.” There are endless examples of him just running with a full head of steam, breaking tackles and finishing plays. What’s impressive is these aren’t gaping holes like the 1st half of the Titans game. Anybody can do that. These are the runs what separate the best of the best.

That’s a Le’Veon Bell run right there. Gordon last year or even earlier this year likely cuts it back to the right into the linebacker. That’s a confident run and a great job of getting skinny” through the hole.

I mentioned how Gordon would just run up the backs of the line and go down a year ago. Now, he’s going that extra mile, actually playing to the whistle. This is a 5 yard gain, but the old Melvin this is a run for no gain or maybe 1.

Then there’s the extreme example against Atlanta where Gordon clinched the game.

It’s these type of runs where you can see the fight in him that you want to see in your playmaker. This is where you can see the development. Also, Gordon’s patience as a runner has been much better.

This is what I’d love to see more. It’s tough, but the best runners in the game let the big guys do the work up front for them. Gordon is starting to do that.

Where Gordon has to get better

Every press conference Mike McCoy mentions how “he’ll tell you he missed some cuts” or something along the lines of his vision. That is still obvious. Sometimes it’s not seeing the field, other times it’s not having a feel for the game. 2 runs stand out to me specifically, that will help describe this. Another area, which I’m not reallllyyyy upset about, where he has completely transformed from his college days is Gordon is no longer bouncing runs. Like, at all. Everything it up the middle, b-gap to b-gap, complete power back. There are a couple runs a game where if Gordon would rely on his athleticism he’d take less of a pounding.

Many of the Chargers runs, as evidenced in the Titans game, are designed to get Gordon 1-on-1 with a defensive back. If he bounces it, it’s him and Chris Harris. I’ll take those odds. Sean McGrath, 84, has 48 on Denver sealed as well. Again, would like Gordon to trust his speed more and I believe it’ll benefit him as a runner in the long run.

This is an example of Gordon bouncing it, taking less of a hit.

This next run goes back to “having a feel.” These are the differences of a few yards or maybe the difference between him having a chance at these huge runs he’s had lately. 1st off, I love the idea of a jump cut. Every great back has a nice lateral jump cut.

Problem is Gordon jumps right into the defender when you’d like to think his instincts force him hop away from the defender to the left, and from there who knows how long of a run he has. I will say the wheels aren’t spinning as fast anymore upstairs so these types of plays are much more forgivable.

Being better at the 2nd level

So Melvin doesn’t have to rely on these video game type runs where he’s breaking several tackles for 40 yards a game and not taking a physical beating, it would be nice to see him make a guy miss in space. As of right now, he just doesn’t have a plan. He’s running straight into guys when it can be a simple head fake or juke. I’d like to see him develop that into his arsenal. I don’t mean a Darren Sproles type juke. It can be as simple as a 1 cut and run away from a guy. With Gordon’s speed, that can be something he can do.

Transformation: Complete

I’m sure we all watch the games with friends and family. Sunday watching Gordon “he’s a Demarco Murray” and “dang, that’s a Michael Turner clone” were thrown out. With emotions running high most things said on game day go in 1 ear and out the other. Butttt the Turner comp kinda raised my eyebrows. Turner was a big fast dude that never went down on 1st contact, broke a ton of tackles, and always fell forward. I’m talking peak, Falcons Turner. I don’t remember Turner being great at the 2nd level but I do remember him going for 1699 yards. I’m sure Charger fans would we ecstatic if Gordon put that up any year.

That is what Gordon has become though, in a sense. He’s transformed into a power back. From contact-averse and not fighting for yards to superhero Luke Cage type power. Watch these runs. Nothing is there in either of them. Gordon creates something.

That’s what, 12 yards after contact? That’s impressive. Can’t ask for much more than that.

This is the best run I’ve seen from a running back this year. Absurd. Insane. Determination. It’s like Gordon is responding to the coaches trusting him and he is paying them off. It’s like a switch in Gordon’s head just went off and he realizes behind this line if he wants to get the yards he needs to he’s going to have to run a certain way. That’s why watching this change has been fun.

Gordon gets it.