Melvin Gordon has officially ended his holdout, returning to Los Angeles Chargers practice Thursday, his first practice with the team all year. Gordon did not receive a new contract and will play out the final year of his rookie deal before becoming a free agent in 2020.
The Chargers are glad to have him back, but will Gordon have the same role he had prior to the holdout? The Chargers averaged 111.7 rushing yards per game without Gordon, while averaging 5.2 yards per carry (fifth in the NFL) with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson leading the way.
"No doubt, no doubt. He's our starter. He was our starter for a reason," Lynn said regarding Gordon's usage. "We'll use him just like we used him before. No different. The things he did was he scored touchdowns. I believe playmakers put the ball in the end zone, somehow, some way. He's always been able to do that."
Where does that leave Ekeler and Jackson? Ekeler has been the No. 1 running back in Gordon's absence, rushing for 160 yards and 4.2 yards per carry while adding 19 catches for 208 yards and averaging 10.9 yards per catch. Jackson has been averaging 7.9 yards per carry as the change-of-pace back to Ekeler, but the Chargers have just two rushing touchdowns on the year.
"I like the way Austin (Ekeler) and Justin (Jackson) been working," Lynn said. "They did a heck of a job and both proved they could play in this league. They will still have a major role in the offense, don't get me wrong. But as soon as Melvin's ready, he'll go back to being No. 1"
In Gordon's four years in the league, he has rushed for 3,628 yards and 28 touchdowns in 55 games, averaging four yards per carry. The Chargers are 26-29 in the 55 games Gordon has played, but 17-11 over the last two years. Gordon has been used a lot over the last two years, but also has been very good under Lynn. He rushed for 1,990 yards on 459 carries with 18 touchdowns (4.4 yards per carry) while having 108 catches for 966 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017-18. Gordon was fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2017 and 10th in 2016, showcasing his value to the Chargers.
Gordon is doubtful for Sunday's game at the Miami Dolphins, but Lynn won't rule him out.
"We'll see what type of shape he's in. Just his conditioning, just his agility, you know to see where he's at," Lynn said. "I'm not concerned with the contact, he's played football all his life. We just need to see where he's at stamina wise.
"He loves the game and he could not stand watching us play without him. At the end of the day, he just loves football."