Without a doubt, the most controversial addition to the Broncos roster in free agency this year has been Melvin Gordon. John Elway’s rationale for the signing was that Gordon was simply too good to pass up:
“Well, when you have an opportunity for Melvin Gordon to come in here, we felt like it was an addition to the team. He’s a guy that obviously has had a lot of success in this league. He’s scored a lot of touchdowns and has caught the football a ton. So we feel like with him — with Melvin, as well as Phillip — that we’ve got a great one-two punch, and we’ll only get better in the backfield.”
While I’ve made it clear where I stand on Gordon here and here, I wanted to get insight from someone who’s watched him more than I have. For that reason I reached out to Bolts From The Blue’s Michael Peterson, who has covered Gordon over his time in California.
Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
1st and 10
Could you give Broncos fans a first hand account of what they should expect from Gordon?
Peterson: Gordon is a hard-working back who really loves the game. He has a ton of fun playing it and he’s easy to root for when he’s doing well. However, that’s where fans got torn on him. Out of five seasons, he only averaged more than four yards per carry once. His high number of touchdowns over the last three seasons are directly-related to his unsustainable amount of opportunities within the five-yard line.
After all that, I do believe the Chargers’ woes along the offensive didn’t do Gordon any favors. When the team is healthy, everyone eats. They were relatively healthy in 2018 and you saw the benefits of that in Gordon’s success and the entire team’s success en route to the playoffs.
Went back and charted all of Melvin Gordon's touchdowns from 2018— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) June 21, 2019
- 5 TDs from <6 yards (4 rush/1 rec)
- 5 TDs b/w 6-19 yards (3/2)
- 4 TDs of 20+ yards (3/1)
2 of his 3 rush TDs that went for 20+ yards, C Mike Pouncey executed one of, if not, the key block in both of them. pic.twitter.com/Yumasfklag
2nd and 7
What are his biggest strengths, and what are his biggest weaknesses?
Peterson: Gordon’s biggest strengths were his contact balance which was mostly shown during that 2018 season. He ran hard, like a man determined to not be slowed by anybody or anything. He improved on his receiving skills which saw huge bumps during that year, as well.
Gordon unfortunately had a number of weaknesses. His vision was poor, he didn’t often make the first tackler miss, and his fumbling issues reared their ugly head again in 2019 after he returned from his holdout. He never was a back who made something out of nothing and I think that’s what separates good running backs from the elite players at the position. We also can’t forget about injuries. He’s only played in all 16 games once in his career, leading to his only 1,00-yard campaign.
So Melvin Gordon was signed to replace Royce Freeman.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) March 20, 2020
Gordon DYAR rank in 2019: 32nd rushing, 33rd receiving
Freeman DYAR rank in 2019: 36th rushing, 36th receiving
Gordon DYAR rank in 2018: 5th rushing, 19th receiving
Freeman DYAR rank in 2018: 31 rushing
3rd and 3
Would you consider Gordon’s time in California a success?
Peterson: I would personally not consider it a success. He helped them to one of their only two playoff appearances in the last ten years but there’s not much to hang his hat on. Austin Ekeler also played a lesser but more efficient role in the team’s recent success. Besides the touchdowns, many other running backs with the same amount of opportunities would have produced similar or better numbers. He was fine for a starting running back, not what you want out of a first-round back who was traded up for.
4th and inches
A) How do Chargers fans feel the loss of Melvin Gordon from the roster in general and B) any thoughts on the fact that he chose to sign with a division rival?
Peterson: Chargers fans are generally relieved to not have to worry about Gordon anymore. Last year he essentially ruined a potentially historic season for Austin Ekeler which fans will remember for awhile. There really wasn’t any backlash to him signing with Denver. It certainly makes things interesting for future match-ups between the two. I expect the performances of Ekeler and Gordon to be put under the microscope heavily whenever these teams meet.
Over the last 2 years, Austin Ekeler has averaged 5.5 and 5.2 YPC, respectively. Some posed the idea he would be more productive than Melvin Gordon if he ever got the chance— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) June 26, 2019
I took a look at the numbers to see if Ekeler’s resume warrants a feature workload https://t.co/ld5Z6gCz44 pic.twitter.com/bQxLLX8IkR
What grade you give Elway for the signing, and any parting thoughts on Tom Telesco and the Chargers letting him leave?
Peterson: I give Elway a middling “C” for the Gordon signing. Phillip Lindsay can already do everything that Gordon does unless the team covets a bigger back for goal-line situations. Lindsay is probably the bigger threat in the passing game, though. Not sure what they are expecting from Gordon, to be honestly. They gave him starting back, bell-cow money. It will be interesting to see how that backfield plays out.
Do you like the Melvin Gordon signing?
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