The Los Angeles Chargers travel to Colorado to face the Denver Broncos in their upcoming Week 8 matchup, going up against a familiar face that donned the Chargers uniform for the first five years of his career. Running back Melvin Gordon, once a key contributor for the Chargers will now be running against his former team as a Bronco.
Both the Chargers and Broncos have identical 2-4 records entering this AFC West Division matchup.
“I’m ready to win a game, not because it’s the Chargers, but because that’s the next team on our schedule,” Gordon said in a virtual media press conference. “And we need to do whatever we can at this point to try to rack up some W’s to get into position to get into playoffs.”
Gordon said he takes the approach of playing the Chargers the way he does against any other team.
“I talked to a couple of guys, and they told me that they were going to come after me,” Gordon said. “You know, I don’t take it different than any other week. I practice really hard. I try to mentally and physically be prepared for whatever team is ahead of us. You don’t want to be too overly high on emotions. I think that’s how you make mistakes and go out there and do too much. You kind of put yourself in a bad position. I’m just taking it like I do every week. Obviously, it’s going to be cool going up against some of the guys that I built a great relationship with over the years, but it’s no different than any other team.”
Gordon signed with Denver this past offseason during free agency, officially joining the team on March 26. The Broncos elected to sign him despite already having a complementary duo in their backfield with Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Adding Gordon to the running back group gave Denver a new dynamic to their offense.
“I know there’s people going, ‘why do you need another horse,’” Denver President of Football Operations and team general manager John Elway said when the team first signed Gordon. “Well, when you have an opportunity for Melvin Gordon to come in here, we felt like it was an addition to the team. He’s a guy that obviously has had a lot of success in this league. He’s scored a lot of touchdowns and has caught the football a ton. So we feel like with him – with Melvin, as well as Phillip – that we’ve got a great one-two punch and we’ll only get better in the backfield. We’ve struggled on the offensive side the last two, three years, so we’ve got to get better on that side of the ball. I think Melvin will be one of those key pieces to help us get better.”
Before his arrival in Denver, Gordon lead the Chargers rushing attack since he was taken by the team in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He established himself as one of the premier running backs in the league that was able to run and catch out of the backfield. Gordon compiled three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 all-purpose yards from 2016-2018, leading to two Pro Bowl selections during that time.
There was no competition in the Chargers backfield. Gordon was the main man to spearhead the Bolts rushing attack, relieving some pressure off quarterback Phillip Rivers with his hard-nosed running style and pass-catching ability.
In his fifth and final season with the Chargers, Gordon had a contract dispute with the team and entered a holdout which began in summer training camp and lasted through the first four weeks of the regular season, hoping to cash in on the productive seasons he had accrued. But the Chargers did not budge from their stance and suspended negotiations until after the season, which led to Gordon choosing Denver over Los Angeles.
During the 2019 season, Austin Ekeler was the starter during Gordon’s holdout and both split the workload when Gordon returned to the team. Ekeler outperformed Gordon as he amassed 1,550 all-purpose yards to Gordon’s 908 all-purpose yards. After seeing the potential Ekeler displayed throughout the season, Los Angeles decided to stick with him while letting Gordon test free agency.
“I just feel like a lot of people doubt my talent as a back,” Gordon told ESPN when he signed with Denver. “Just during [my] holdout, saying, ‘He’s just an average back, he’s not this, he’s not that.’ Just this year saying, ‘He’s not the back he once was.’ I’m going to take that and use it as fuel because I know what type of player I am and I want to show that. I want to show that, and I’m going to show that I’m better than just average.”
Gordon’s departure was not the only notable offensive player to leave the Chargers this past offseason. Rivers was not brought back to be the team’s quarterback after being under center for the Chargers the last 15 seasons. He elected to sign with the Indianapolis Colts, reuniting with head coach Frank Reich, who was the offensive coordinator for two seasons with the Chargers, and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who spent five seasons as an offensive assistant with the Chargers.
The Chargers’new look on offense now has rookie standout Justin Herbert under center with Ekeler complimenting him in the backfield to relieve some of the pressure from the passing game. Ekeler was enjoying another productive season in 2020 for the Bolts but got sidelined with hamstring and knee issues that landed him on the injured reserve.
He will not be activated for the match against his former teammate, but running backs Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson will be tasked to rejuvenate the underwhelming Chargers running game that ranks 28th in the league, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, according to ESPN.com.
“I like our running back group,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said ahead of the 2020 season. “Bunch of young, hungry, talented guys. When [Jackson] is on the field for us, he makes plays for us. I really like the young group that we have.”