The Chargers can replace Melvin Gordon with different backs, but may have trouble replicating his size with their current rotation.
The Chargers look set to open the regular season with Austin Ekeler as the team’s lead back, with Justin Jackson the clear second in the rotation. It’s a duo that has been shining this preseason, and out of necessity could lead to a very creative offense.
However, both backs cannot replicate what Melvin Gordon has: A size advantage. At 6’1″, 215 pounds, he’s bigger than any back on the roster.
Against the Seattle Seahawks, the Chargers tried to convert on fourth and short by running the ball, failing on all of them. The previous week, the Chargers were unable to convert once more against the Saints.
Now, there is another obvious fix: Get a better offensive line. Considering the team’s lack of moves this offseason, however, it seems the Chargers will roll out the same players they did last season, with Forrest Lamp hopefully injected within the lineup.
— NFL (@NFL) December 17, 2017
So, the Chargers will have to rely on Ekeler, Jackson, and it looks like Troymaine Pope to convert in short yardage situations. Ekeler is 5’10” 200 pounds, Jackson is 6’0″ 199 pounds, and Pope, replacing Detrez Newsome, is 5’9″ 205 pounds. Though they feature special talent through most of the game, they will have trouble moving a pile when the team needs a yard to win a game.
It’s possible the team gets creative with Tyrod Taylor and uses him to convert, but there’s only so many times the coaches will allow him to give up his body to get a first down.
The Chargers need to find someone bigger to move the chains in short yardage situations. If the team is going to carry only three running backs, the diminutive Pope should not be the third option, even if he has excelled this preseason.