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Midseason Grades, Surprises & Disappointments: Running Backs

Los Angeles is ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing yards. Are the running backs to blame at the halfway mark?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

At the season’s midway point, the Los Angeles Chargers have been one of the worst teams in the NFL on the ground. With Anthony Lynn at the helm, the lack of a running game has become a major concern for a struggling offense.

Melvin Gordon

Coming into the season, Gordon was projected to be the centerpiece of the offense. The pressure was going to be taken off of Philip Rivers and placed on Gordon’s shoulders. Los Angeles has tried to force the ball to Gordon but he has been hit or miss thus far. Not all of the fault can fall on the feature back. The offensive line has been subpar and the coaches have taken him out of the game plan as they did on Sunday against New England.

Although Gordon is in the top ten for rushing yards, he has been the definition of hit or miss this season. He has two 100-yard rushing performances but has four games where he hasn’t topped 55 yards. Gordon’s receiving numbers have flown under the radar to this point as well. Gordon has caught 30 passes for 235 yards. Overall, he has been solid but there hasn’t been a clear jump towards superstardom that many come to expect of a first-round pick.

Grade: B

Austin Ekeler

One of the best stories of the season, Austin Ekeler defied the odds to make the team. In his limited touches, Ekeler has done some nice things. He has displayed solid elusiveness and an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. For whatever reason, Ekeler hasn’t gotten many touches. He appeared to have a breakout game against Denver in Week Seven but was passed over for fellow backup Branden Oliver the following week.

It might be in the best interest to get Ekeler more involved. He is a change of pace from Gordon and can give defenses a different look.

Grade: B-

Branden Oliver

One of the biggest concerns during the offseason was the lack of depth at running back. Behind Gordon, it was mostly unknowns. A healthy Oliver was supposed to be able to be a viable option. That hasn’t been the case so far. Oliver has only played in five games and has only gained 61 yards on the ground thus far.

A disappointing first half for Oliver has not helped a struggling Chargers running game.

Grade: D

Final Grade: C

Although there is room to improve for Gordon and the rest of the running back, they aren’t getting much help up front. The offensive line has struggled mightily in the run game. Secondly, the offensive play calling has phased out the running game through the course of the game.

Excuses aside, seeing a team struggle this bad on the ground with Lynn leading the offense is concerning. Hopefully, Lynn can take a little more control and get Gordon going.