With Melvin Gordon set to hit the open free-agent market, it’s likely the Los Angeles Chargers will be looking to add a fresh face to the offensive backfield.
Melvin Gordon should have interest from several teams, and the general thought seems to be that he won’t be back with the Chargers. That includes NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, who listed the Pittsburgh Steelers as a possibility to land the running back.
Gordon’s holdout last summer seemed to drive a wedge between he and the organization and when the team had Austin Ekeler step up with a career year, it started to become clear that the Chargers would be just fine without the former first-round pick.
If the Chargers turn their attention away from Gordon, allowing him to collect a big contract from another team, they can move forward with Ekeler and Justin Jackson. The two of them provide a solid combination out of the backfield.
Ekeler is one of the most versatile backs in the league and his 92 receptions for 993 yards last season prove that he is one of the league’s best receiving backs, probably second to only Christian McCaffrey.
Jackson, when healthy, is a good option behind him. The former seventh-round pick averaged a whopping 6.9 yards per carry last season. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to just seven games last season.
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Jackson should still have several good years left in him to contribute for the team, but the Chargers could definitely use a hard-nosed, straight-ahead runner. Looking at free agents that may be available when the signing period officially starts, Jordan Howard is a name that jumps out.
Howard once looked like the franchise running back for years to come for the Chicago Bears but last March, he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. While he didn’t post eye-popping numbers for his new team, he did do one thing quite well. He gained yards in short-yardage situations and pushed the ball over the goal line when he had to.
If you need a painful reminder, think back to the Chargers’ game against the Tennessee Titans. The Chargers, down three, had the ball 1st-and-goal from the Titans’ 1-yard line and couldn’t get in. Gordon was given the ball twice and both plays were reviewed. The first, originally ruled a touchdown, was determined to be short of the goal line. The second showed Gordon cough up the ball, and the game, to the Titans.
Howard might be a better option down there.
In his four professional seasons, Howard has scored six rushing touchdowns or more in each. Last season with the Eagles, he was brought in to get those tough yards and when he gets an opening, he is going to get the necessary yardage much more often than not.
Did a little digging around on the Melvin Gordon trade market. To give you an idea of where it is, only offer I came across was from Philly.
In that deal, Jordan Howard would go to LA, the teams would swap mid-round picks, and the Chargers would eat salary. LA obviously said no.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 4, 2019
Ekeler is not a short-yardage option and though Jackson could probably make some plays in those situations, Howard would be a better option. Howard also wouldn’t cost the Chargers a lot to bring in and would likely be far cheaper than Gordon.
The Chargers will need to address the running back position this offseason, particularly if Gordon leaves. The combination of Ekeler and Jackson can be productive, but the absence of a downhill bruiser is a glaring one.
The tweet above from Albert Breer would be quite ironic, but Howard would make a lot of sense for the Chargers.