There are no signs that running back Melvin Gordon has softened his stance on playing for the Chargers on his current contract this season. Unfortunately for the talented rusher, he doesn’t have a ton of leverage to exert onto the franchise. Los Angeles’ “other team” has more than enough talent to win a Super Bowl without Gordon’s services.
That doesn’t mean the higher-ups in the franchise shouldn’t try to get Gordon into camp. While the team is blessed with quality depth at the position, there’s a reason why Gordon is the unquestioned starter. His ability to produce big plays in both the run and pass game make him one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL. The Chargers offense won’t be the same without him in 2019.
The good news for Philip Rivers is that he still has two talented running backs to turn to in Gordon’s absence. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are relatively unproven, but they’d both shown flashes of brilliance. The idea that they could combine to replace Gordon’s production from 2018 certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility. In particular, team officials are high on Ekeler’s ability to have a breakout season.
It’s also important to remember that the Chargers’ offense still boasts a very potent passing attack. Rivers may be getting up there in years, but he still can spin the ball at a Pro Bowl level. He needs to have a good rushing attack to keep his body in shape for a full 16-game season, but he doesn’t require an exceptional group of running backs. He’s still going to make more than his share of big plays throwing the ball to the likes of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Even if Gordon doesn’t play a snap this season, it’s still hard to envision a scenario where the Chargers don’t field one of the top 10 offenses in the NFL.
Despite all of the big names on this offense, the defense is the group that can really power them to a deep postseason run. Drafting Jerry Tillery in the first round really completes what should be one of the best defensive lines in football this season. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are established commodities on the outside. Each star should notch double-digit sacks in 2019 if they’re able to stay healthy.
Tillery and Brandon Mebane will be required to clog the middle and keep those edge rushers free to do what they do best. Don’t be surprised if Mebane posts a high sack rate for a defensive tackle as well. He could see a lot of time in the opposing backfield if he’s left to work against interior lineman one-on-one.
The addition of Thomas Davis in free agency will also help this linebacker group make more plays. He isn’t a long-term solution for the team, but he’s just the sort of veteran who can come in and make an instant impact. The Chargers don’t boast a great group of linebackers, but Davis could give this unit enough juice to play much better football in 2019.
Even if the linebackers aren’t great, the talent the Chargers possess at safety more than makes up for it. Derwin James is one of the most dynamic defensive players in the league. His ability to make plays at the line of scrimmage against the run and in the deep third of the field against the pass give the Chargers defensive coaching staff a ton of flexibility on each snap. James has the talent to blossom into a consistent All-Pro player in his second season.
Second-round selection Nasir Adderly also has the natural talent to become a factor for the team late in the season. He faces a massive step up in competition after playing his collegiate football at Delaware, but once he catches on to the speed and physicality of the professional game he should become an above-average starter. Playing next to James should keep the game relatively simple for him during his rookie campaign.
The Chargers should follow their normal regular season blueprint of success this season. The question will be whether or not the new additions the team has made can get them over the hump in the Playoffs. It’s impossible to answer that question at the moment, but they aren’t getting the respect they deserve. The Chargers are far closer to the Patriots and Chiefs in the battle for AFC supremacy than the odds would suggest.