SAN DIEGO-You can call it swag. You can describe it as confidence. Maybe, it is just a natural maturation process of evolving and growth. Whatever it is, San Diego Chargers second-year running back Melvin Gordon has it this season.
Last year, Gordon, the Chargers’ first round draft pick (No. 15 overall) in 2015, came on the scene looking the part as a rookie. Through the first two games of the regular season, Gordon has flipped the switch and is now playing the part of a big-time running back.
On Sunday, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team supposedly on the rise, Gordon decided it was a good time to rush for 100 yards (102 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries) for the first time in his career.
He galloped. He hopped. He ran through and smashed over would-be tacklers. At times, Gordon looked dominant. He made it look easy in the Chargers’ 38-14 win at Qualcomm Stadium. Last week, Gordon re-introduced himself to the national spotlight when he scored two touchdowns against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Why is that a big deal? Well, last season Gordon couldn’t get a whiff of the endzone.
He’s got three rushing scores already through the Chargers first two games and looking every bit as the right choice to supplant now-traded Ryan Mathews as the Chargers go-to feature back. What took so long, MG?
“I knew I trained hard so there was no question that I was ready,” Gordon said at a press conference after the game. “I was ready for whatever, and I kind of went through a whole season and I’m just comfortable. When you’re comfortable, it gives you confidence. And when you have confidence, it shows. It shows out there in your play, and I think in the league, it’s all about confidence. Every guys that steps out there on the field, you ask them who’s the best, and they’ll tell you, ‘I’m the best.’ So you have to feel confident and then you play that way.”
If Gordon keeps up the type of production he’s put out in the team’s first two games, he would validate the comparison to last season NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley. To a man, Gurley and Gordon stack up against each other pretty well, given the fact the two sophomore running backs are about two hours apart from one another.
Both men were big-time during their college careers. Gordon became a one-man wrecking crew at Wisconsin, rushing for 2, 587 yards and 29 touchdowns in his last collegiate season. Gurley, the No. 10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, was running through people in the SEC Conference while starring at Georgia.
The Los Angeles Rams are trying to replicate the Eric Dickerson era by making Gurley their main guy. The Chargers haven’t had a big power back with speed since the days of the great Chuck Muncie.
Both Gurley and Gordon hold the keys to their team’s respective futures. Last season Gurley jumped out of the gate quickly and got a head start on Gordon, who rushed for just 641 yards (3.5 yards per carry). Against Jacksonville, Gordon showed off the speed and physicality that can make him a dangerous playmaker in coach Mike McCoy’s offense.
“We’ve been talking about Mel for a long time, and I think that this is the Melvin Gordon that, we all know who he is,” McCoy said. “He’s worked extremely hard coming off what he went through last year and I think he’ll say the same thing-the other 10 guys-give them just as much credit as him. He’s running physical, he’s pounding the football and he’s making positive yards. There aren’t many minus plays; I think that’s the one positive.”
Part of his struggles last season was trying to overcompensate one mistake by making another one, Gordon said. The other mistake Gordon made was looking at what other people were doing in comparison to what he did on the football field. Gordon said he’s learned to dismiss that kind of thinking.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not worry about other people’s success, regardless of what it is,” said Gordon. “Focus on you and your teammates. We just get so competitive sometimes. I know I was. And you just kind of look at other players and kind of see other players separating, and you can’t worry about that because then you go out there and try to do too much. Just focus on the next game, and let it go.”
Top Photo: San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. Photo by Tiffany Zablosky/News4usonline