Looking through several statistics and analysis, Los Angeles Chargers’ running back, Melvin Gordon, seems to deserve a raise. In 2018, Gordon ranked third in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value over Average). DVOA represents how an average running back would fare against in-game situations that each running back faces during the season. Gordon completed the 2018 season with a 20.5%.
He also tied for 10th in success rate per run with a 53% success rate. Gordon also finished the season as a top-10 fantasy football running back with an average of 18.8 points per game.
Lastly, he finished last season with 885 yards and 10 touchdowns after dealing with the Chargers struggling offensive line. The line was graded a 58.4 grade, ranked 17th out of 32.
However, if we look at the other side of the field, Gordon is not worth the extra security. Gordon is on the verge of a big contract as he is on the fifth and final year of his rookie deal. But, Gordon has several flaws in his gameplay.
One-way Running Back
Gordon is not similar to many running backs nowadays. Many RBs can be an elusive back, receiving back, and power back on any down. Despite the new traits of multi-purpose backs, Gordon is only a power-style running back.
In this clip, the Los Angeles Chargers are running a simple 01 trap run. The 01 trap is a run down the A-gap between the center and right guard. It is a unique play because there is always a defensive player targeted in the trap.
For example, in this play, the left defensive tackle is lined up in the 3-technique or outside shoulder of the right guard. The right guard goes straight up to the second level blocking a linebacker. This causes the defensive end to run downhill hard while the left guard pulls and kicks him out so the lane can open.
Gordon slides in the hole and gains 4 yards during this play. Although he is a power back, he has struggled to earn more yards after contact. The backup running back, Austin Ekeler, has earned himself 3.63 YAC while Gordon is only at 2.83 YAC.
In this clip, Gordon bounces the rock to the outside, breaks through a few tackles like a typical power back, but if you look closely, he has more flaws than perfections.
First of all, Gordon lacks speed. He tries to break down the sideline but has to force his way through defenders in order to keep going.
Second, his hips do not have fluidity nor depth. If you notice the red circle, Gordon’s hips stay high. The lack of depth causes him to struggle to jumpcut or break free with speed. The hips also cause a lack of balance that keeps his bodyweight off and makes it easier for him to be tackled.
Lastly, Gordon seems to be slower due to lack of fluidity in his knees and ankles. The hard cuts are not hard plants that cause him to jump-cut far nor is his change of direction spectacular.
Gordon’s bread and butter is power running, but the Los Angeles Chargers love to run stretch and sweep plays too. Gordon does not have the speed, but he tries to utilize his power back style in this too. However, power back running isn’t the go-to option in these types of plays and we’ll see why.
In this clip, Gordon made the right decision by following his blocks. Gordon did not do too much on this play besides hurdling the defender he took on 1-on-1. However, his lack of speed and true power does not allow him to break for six. Instead, Gordon must take on a defender and hurdle. This was a great run at the end of the day, but this is not something the Los Angeles Chargers or any other team can expect from Gordon often.
Here, the formation starts in a single back, strong right formation. Then the fullback shifts into an I formation where the Chargers run a toss play to the right. Gordon’s run ends up in a touchdown but let’s look how he gets there. The shift places eight Seattle Seahawks into the box. With the toss going right and every lineman reach blocking right, the Chargers had numbers to the outside. With Gordon, the matchup turns into a 4-on-3 mismatch in favor of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Gordon cuts upfield slowly, but with the mismatch, he has time to build up speed. By the time he reaches his top speed, the defense collapses and the safety takes an angle on Gordon. Gordon’s huge stature allows him to shed the tackle then and score.
Gordon may look great in these two plays, but if you look closely, he still has flaws to hold him back from being an elite running back.
Last, but not least, is his lack of receiving skills.
Gordon’s main weakness coming out of college was his capability to catch the ball from the backfield. Unlike Le’Veon Bell stating he wanted a raise since he is a receiver too, Gordon cannot make that claim.
In 2018, Gordon caught 50 of 66 targeted passes. He only earned 4 receiving touchdowns last season and 10 in his four-year career. Gordon’s career catching percentage is also only a whopping 75.8%.
In this clip, the Chargers are in a pro right formation. Gordon is running a simple in route a few yards past the line of scrimmage. The play ended as an incompletion due to a few reasons.
First of all, Gordon runs a poor route. He fakes a chip block and that works smoothly. However, he then continues to jog down and makes a poor jumpcut to the inside. He jumps instead of planting his foot, which throws off timing between him and Philip Rivers, causing him to draw defenders towards him.
Second of all, since timing is off, Gordon does not turn around properly. He swivels his head but not his body. This allows the ball to fly right past him and go incomplete.
This clip shows a completion to Gordon and several yards after the catch. Gordon runs a check-down route and catches the pass. However, the part that harms him in this play is his running after the catch. Gordon’s lack of movement forces him to run straight into three defenders compared to the openings in the middle of the field. This was still a positive play as it did result in a first down, but there was potential for a much larger gain.
By the end of the day, Gordon is still a great running back that can do damage in the NFL. He is not an elite running back yet, however, and does not need a raise. If he sits out the season, he will hurt his stock more than benefit. If the Los Angeles Chargers do elect to trade him, he must hope it is to a team that utilizes his strengths. Gordon needs to fit in a lineup that will prioritize his power runs and limit him on outside runs and passing plays.