July 26, 2017
10 Things to Watch: The Battle to Back Up Gordon

Melvin Gordon is firmly entrenched as the Bolts’ bell-cow back.

That’s to be expected after a breakout 2016 season in which he carried the ball 254 times for 997 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in 13 games. Gordon was named to his first Pro Bowl as his 1,416 total yards from scrimmage ranked 10thin the NFL.  They also placed him 16th on the franchise’s all-time single-season list. Furthermore, his three runs over 40 yards were second most in the league while his seven carries of at least 20 tied for sixth.

Still, the battle for touches alongside the 6-1, 215-pound third-year running back will be a focal point come training camp.  Head Coach Anthony Lynn made it clear he intends to share the load, so the competition figures to be fierce.

In the running for important complementary roles at tailback are Branden Oliver, Kenjon Barner, Andre Williams, Kenneth Farrow and Austin Ekeler.  Each player brings a unique aspect to the Bolts.

Fans are probably most familiar with Oliver, who broke out as an undrafted free agent in 2014 to lead the team in rushing.  As effective toting the rock as he is snaring it out of the backfield, he ran for 582 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie along with 36 catches for 271 yards and a TD. Unfortunately, he’s missed the last year and a half with a myriad of injuries. 

Another running back vying for a bigger role is Williams, a bruising power back who wears down the opposition.  His performance in last year’s season finale stuck out to Head Coach Anthony Lynn when he watched tape of the 2016 season.  Also back is Farrow, who served as Gordon’s primary backup as a rookie last season.  In limited action, he ran for 192 yards on 60 carries for 192 yards.

Then there are a pair of newcomers. 

First is Barner, a speedy change of pace back most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles.  The 5-9, 195-pounder has been productive when he’s seen the field, averaging 4.3 yards per attempt. Unfortunately, he only received limited action in the City of Brotherly Love.  Finally, there’s Austin Ekeler, who looks to become the third undrafted rookie running back to make the Bolts’ roster in the last four seasons.

With the team needing to see who will emerge as a complementary back, every single carry will be heavily scrutinized as the Bolts look to cement a rotation.

Source: chargers.com