We are taking a break from defense because let's be honest, defense is boring.
Last year the offensive line was bad. Last year, you could argue Melvin Gordon was worse. Last year, and it's not close, Frank Reich was the worst of the three. He did no favors for either side. He asked guys who couldn't move to get out in space, and to the surprise of nobody, the lineman failed at that. Then with Gordon, it's like he assumed because he was over 220 pounds he was a power back; he just pounded him up the middle. That's not Gordon. Gordon is a high-end athlete that needs to get out to the edge where he can win with said athleticism.
Today, there are three plays that I've picked up, whether it's watching the Chargers or other teams, that I think new(old?) offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt should implement in order to maximize Gordon's talents. Here are the plays:
After the Chargers drafted him last year, I wrote about how Reich needed to get Gordon in space. He didn't see that. The play below is the fourth offensive play of the season. I'm willing to bet we did not see these swing passes more than 10 times a year ago, which is unfortunate because the Chargers receivers are above average blockers and really make defensive backs work to get free.
This is a perfect example, and a very simple play. This is one of San Diego's most dangerous formations with Antonio Gates isolated by himself to the top of the screen, Stevie Johnson in the slot against a linebacker, which leaves Keenan Allen one-on-one to the bottom of the screen. Back to the play. If you know your receivers can block and your interior line struggles, wouldn't you try something like this more often? Is it not that simple?
I think it is. These type of plays are essentially like a getting a basketball player an easy look to open a game. From the different angle you can see how decisive Gordon was. An eight-yard gain isn't going to be very flashy but it's the type of play that can get Gordon going. Gordon forced six missed tackles against the Lions. He ran harder and more confident. Getting him to the edge like this on easy passes where he just has one guy to beat should be a common theme this coming season. Confidence builders.
Watching new Chargers center Matt Slauson there was a sweep play that made my eyes light up thinking "this has to be added to the playbook." This isn't an old fashion Packers sweep out of the I formation. Those get too cluttered. This is sticking with the numbers game where your running back just has to beat one person as opposed to beat multiple guys up the middle. Here is the play.
Gordon will have to be patient in the invent that the defense over pursues here like the Chiefs did. If the outside linebacker crashes hard then all that does is take him out of the play and the running back has even more space to create. This is why I'm such a fan of this play. Whatever that edge rusher does, it's in favor of the offense. Like we saw him drop in coverage here, that allows a cutback lane so long as the center is able to get there. Slauson will be able to execute that short pull. My man Max was born for plays like this.
In Gordon's case, he's going to have the speed to beat 90% of the second level defenders to the edge. Having to react when the play isn't clear where to go initially might give him trouble at first, but repping this type of play numerous times could go along way in maximizing Melvin.
The theme of this, if you couldn't tell by now, is all about having the numbers advantage. Not only was the team predictable last year but many of the runs seemed to go to the strong side of the formation. Now that they have a center that can execute one-on-one blocks, like being able to "reach" defensive tackles, we should see many more weak-side runs. Teams did it to the Chargers all the time.
Nothing fancy here at all. Just great execution. All the left tackle has to do his shield himself between the ball carrier and the defender. Both guards are the 1's who make this play work. The left guard swallows the play-side linebacker and the right guard cuts the backside linebacker which eliminates any pursuit. The center does a really nice job of getting around and reaching the defensive tackle who is shaded over his left shoulder.
This play would come down to Orlando Franklin being able to give Gordon at least a one way go and if D.J. Fluker can't get to that backside linebacker, Gordon being able to beat said linebacker to the sideline.
We saw a few every now and then in 2013 under Whisenhunt and with Reich last year these types of runs were just non-existent. Knowing that Whiz does indeed have these runs in his playbook is encouraging for the offense. In the play below, which you could call a counter-trey, it's still a numbers game. If all goes well, the only player Gordon has to beat to the sideline is the play side linebacker. While there is an opportunity for this play to get blown up with all the movment with the offensive line, at the same time there is a lot of trash for the linebackers to sift through themselves. Here's the play:
For how poorly this was executed up front, it was still an eight-yard gain. Watch the center, he doesn't fully get around and seal the linebacker. The backside guard doesn't even make it to Manti Te'o, but with the play design you can see it's easy for the running back to out run him to the sideline.
What we do see is an excellent block from the tight end and that's where Hunter Henry should come in to play. Either way, the running back doesn't have to do much and finds a way to get eight yards out of this.
What to expect
When Whisenhunt was hired one of the 1st things he said was "we'll have a plan for Gordon." I imagine we'll see a better effort to get him outside and allow him to win with his natural gifts. The plays highlighted above aren't sandbox plays that I just drew up. These are plays the majority of teams in the NFL run. I feel like these would make like easier on Gordon.
How would you like to see Gordon used?