Melvin Gordon: Sophomore stud or dud?
By Derek Anselmo
Coming into the 2016-17 season, one of the biggest questions for Chargers’ fans is, ‘Will Melvin Gordon prove worthy of the first-round pick used on him in the 2015 NFL Draft?’ What can Chargers’ fans expect from the second-year RB out of Wisconsin? My answer… more.
Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) hands off to running back Melvin Gordon (28) during the second half of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. Oakland won 37-29. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Assuming there are no complications with Gordon’s knee and he stays healthy, he will most definitely have a better year. Gordon, who is coming off microfracture surgery, finished his rookie campaign with a total of 641 rushing yards on 184 attempts and zero touchdowns. The most obvious eye sore is “zero touchdowns”. Though very painful for Chargers’ fans to say, read or think, it is the past and buried with the lackluster four-win 2015 season.
But looking into the upcoming season, what do I imagine for Gordon? Let me paint the picture for you:
It’s Feb. 5th, 2017…Chargers on their opponent’s one-yard line, five seconds to go, down by six, Chargers in the I-formation..Rivers snaps the ball, hands it off to Gordon, who leaps over the line annnnnd–GETS IN! Melvin Gordon with the go-ahead score to give the Chargers their first ever Super Bowl Championship!
A man can dream, can’t he? My imagination getting the best of me.
On a more serious note, what do I truly expect from Gordon this upcoming year? I expect his stat line to look something similar to 1,100 rushing yards and nine TDs. If you’re asking how I project Gordon to go from 641 rushing yards and zero touchdowns to almost doubling the rushing yards and nine TDs, the answer is Ken Whisenhunt.
Whisenhunt, who was rehired by the Chargers this year as the offensive coordinator, will once again make this offense flourish. This isn’t Whisenhunt’s first go-around with the Chargers. He was the team’s offensive coordinator for the 2013 season before trying his luck as the Titans HC. I firmly believe that Gordon’s numbers will trend so far up after just one season because Whisenhunt will run the type of offense that can help Gordon be successful. That means more under-center runs, more I-formations and less delayed HB draws. Can I get a hallelujah? Whisenhunt will switch up the play calling, making the offense less predictable to game plan against, which will in turn benefit Gordon.
Aug 19, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt looks on from the sideline during the second half of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego won 19-3. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Under Whisenhunt in 2013, the Chargers were ranked 13th in the league for rushing, had 486 total rushing attempts and averaged 4.0 yards per carry and 123 rush yards per game. The season ended in a divisional round loss in the playoffs to the Broncos. Looking into last season, the Chargers were ranked 31st in league for rushing, had 393 rushing attempts, and averaged 3.5 yards per carry and 85 rushing yards per game. The season ended in a 4-12 year, and obviously without the playoffs. Whisenhunt will create opportunities for Gordon to succeed. He will continue to establish the run and make this offensive attack more balanced.
Don’t be mistaken: Whisenhunt’s play calling isn’t riddled with trick plays or flashy plays downfield. His play calling is effective and dynamic enough to keep opposing defenses on their toes. Philip Rivers seems to trust the vision of this offense run by Whisenhunt. I believe the sky is the limit for Rivers, Gordon and this whole offense with Whisenhunt leading the way.
My final verdict: Sophomore stud.