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How will Chargers divide rushing attempts if Melvin Gordon sits out?

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 08: Running back Justin Jackson #22 of the Los Angeles Chargers rushes the football during the NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on August 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Chargers 17-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 08: Running back Justin Jackson #22 of the Los Angeles Chargers rushes the football during the NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on August 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Chargers 17-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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It’s starting to look more and more likely that Melvin Gordon‘s holdout will extend into the regular season.

The Los Angeles Chargers still must decide whether to pay him the money that he is looking for, play hardball and let him sit as long as he feels necessary, or find a trade partner. While he’s away, the Chargers seem content to turn to the backs behind him on the depth chart.

Those running backs include Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson and any combination of players that make the 53-man roster between Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope and Jeremy Cox.

As good as Gordon has been, there’s a really good chance the Chargers will find success behind him.

Sure, Gordon is the team’s “workhorse” back and the team may not have another one of those with him being absent, but here are some numbers that may surprise you.

  • Even with Gordon, the Chargers still threw the ball 512 times while running the ball 399 times. That means they passed the ball on 56.2 percent of their offensive plays. Balance is important, but the Chargers preferred to throw the ball and that isn’t going to change this year regardless of who is in the backfield.
  • Gordon missed four games and the Chargers won all of them. He carried the ball 175 times in those 12 games for an average of 14.5 carries per game. In the games he didn’t play, the Chargers top ball carrier averaged 14 carries per game.
  • In the games Gordon played, the Chargers ran the ball an average of 26 times per game. In his absence, that number dipped a bit, down to 21.7 rushing attempts per game.
  • Ekeler had 106 rushing attempts on the season and actually had a better yards-per-carry average than Gordon.

What do all of these numbers mean?

These numbers show that with or without Gordon, the offense isn’t going to change much. Anthony Lynn and Ken Whisenhunt will likely go into each and every game with the same gameplan whether Gordon is in the lineup or not. The team can call about 20 running plans and then rely on their leader, Philip Rivers, to do the rest.

It’s easy to argue that Gordon is the most complete, dynamic back on the roster. But truthfully, the team does not suffer that much when he’s not there and that is why he’s likely not going to get the crazy money he is looking to get.

The Chargers know that they can get enough production out of the combination of Ekeler and Jackson. The only thing they might want to consider doing is to add an experienced veteran on a cheap, one-year deal to take some of the load off of those young backs. A 16-game season is long and full of punishing hits, so that wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Why Chargers shouldn't give into Gordon's demands. Related Story

For those fretting over Gordon’s situation thinking that his absence will derail the team’s championship dreams, relax. This is a complete team and while it is better with Gordon, it is built to succeed by way of others pulling together.

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