PHOENIX -- New Chargers coach Anthony Lynn was talking to the media about his running back depth at the NFL’s annual meeting Tuesday. He mentioned Kenjon Barner, Branden Oliver and Andre Williams, and Lynn said something that initially sounded alarming.
“I like to run the football multiple ways,” Lynn said. “It’s going to take more than one runner.”
More than one runner? Uh, coach, I think you forgot to mention your No. 1 running back? Anything on Melvin Gordon?
When a new coach takes over, sometimes they like to change things up, and Lynn is replacing the fired Mike McCoy. Lynn has spoken highly of Gordon since taking the job, but I wanted to make sure nothing has changed after Gordon’s breakout campaign in 2016. So I asked Lynn if he still views Gordon as a workhorse.
Thankfully, he said “no doubt about it.” Phew.
“He can be as special as he wants to be,” Lynn said of Gordon. “He works at it. I look out my window, and I see him pulling sleds, running up hills. He’s hungry. He’s the type of kid that I have to hold back. I love the way he developed last year and the way he’s going to continue to develop.”
Lynn inherits a team full of Fantasy stars, and hopefully things continue to progress for the Chargers’ young players like Gordon, Tyrell Williams and tight end Hunter Henry, as well as veterans in Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates. Lynn is excited about this roster.
“I thought they did a solid job last year, and they’re young,” Lynn said. “I see a lot of growth there. A lot of potential. But everyone has to improve and keep improving.”
For Gordon, he’s a No. 1 Fantasy running back worth drafting toward the end of Round 1 after he had 254 carries for 997 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns and 41 catches for 419 yards and two touchdowns. He needs to improve, and maybe Lynn can help.
Lynn has spent 14 years as a running backs coach and offensive coordinator in his career and helped seven running backs rush for more than 1,000 yards. Lynn has worked with guys like LaDainian Tomlinson, LeSean McCoy, Fred Taylor and Jamal Lewis, and he’s excited to coach Gordon.
But, with Danny Woodhead gone as a free agent, and a lack of standout talent behind Gordon with the likes of Barner, Oliver and Andre Williams, Lynn said the backfield isn’t complete.
“I think we’re pretty solid,” Lynn said. “But we’d like to add to it, don’t get me wrong.”
Another running back likely won’t impact Gordon, but it will be interesting to see how the receivers mesh for the Chargers if Allen is healthy after last year’s torn ACL, which he suffered in Week 1. Lynn said he’s encouraged by Allen in his recovery.
“He’s doing good,” Lynn said. “He’s working every day. I see him in the weight room every day. He’s doing well.”
Allen should return as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver, and he’s worth drafting in Round 4. But he has plenty of company for targets now after Tyrell Williams emerged in 2016 with 69 catches for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns on 120 targets.
Williams was the No. 13 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues, and he should end up as a tremendous value pick on Draft Day with a mid-round pick. He’s entering his third season in the NFL, and he could remain the No. 1 receiver for Rivers -- even ahead of Allen.
But both receivers also have to contend with Henry and Gates at tight end. Reports at the end of last season indicated Henry would pass Gates as the featured option at the position, but it could hurt Henry’s upside that Gates is still on the roster, even though he turns 37 in June.
Still, Henry was great as a rookie in 2016 with 36 catches for 478 yards and eight touchdowns on 54 targets. He scored at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in seven of the eight games when he had at least four targets, including four outings with at least 10 points.
“Hunter Henry can be as good as any tight end in this league,” Lynn said. “He can catch, he can block. He’s learning from one of the best in the game right now in Antonio Gates.”
Henry is a perfect tight end to wait for on Draft Day with a mid- to late-round pick. As for Gates, he’s only worth a late-round flier at this point in his career, even though he had 53 catches for 548 yards and seven touchdowns on 92 targets last year. But Henry should be the man now at tight end, which should also help Rivers.
As for Rivers, he might not be considered a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback coming into the season, but he is still a viable option worth drafting with a late-round pick, especially with all the talent around him. He was the No. 6 Fantasy quarterback last year with 4,386 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, and he can easily be in that range again.
And even though he’s 35, Lynn doesn’t see Rivers slowing down any time soon.
“Philip is the type of guy I feel like we’re going to have to eventually run off,” Lynn said. ”I don’t feel like he’s going to ever retire. He’s the ultimate competitor. That’s how you like it. Guys that start talking about they want to play one or two more years, those aren’t the guys I want to coach. I want to coach guys that want to play forever.”
This should be a fun offense to follow -- in Fantasy and reality. Lynn has plenty of talent at his disposal, and hopefully the Chargers score a lot this season.
We just hope Lynn remembers to lean on the right players. Like that Gordon guy at running back.
Hey coach, he’s pretty good.