Following media reports that the Broncos have agreed to terms with two-time Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon, we asked Chargers beat reporter Gilbert Manzano of Southern California News Group for his take on the potential new Bronco.
Ben Swanson: What do you think of the overall potential fit of Melvin Gordon with the Broncos?
Gilbert Manzano, Southern California News Group: "I think it's actually a great fit. When you start hearing these rumors and reports and you start seeing all these other teams, you go, 'I don't know about that one,' but you hear the Denver Broncos, you go, 'That's perfect." … You've got Phillip Lindsay there, and it sounds like a pretty dynamic duo there with two former Pro Bowlers who have rushed for over 1,000 yards. In today's NFL, you need two guys, and it seems like Lindsay is one of those dynamic, athletic guys, and you've got Melvin Gordon, who's one of those tough, bruiser kind of guys. They complement each other pretty well. And I think Melvin Gordon is just the bell-cow kind of bruiser guy. He can do pretty much everything. When you add Melvin Gordon, you make your team better."
BS: In LA, the Chargers had Austin Ekeler alongside him as the smaller, faster kind of guy. From their time together, how do you expect Lindsay and Gordon to play together?
GM: "I know last year didn't work out too well, but if you look at the 2018 season, that was such a great duo. I kept asking myself last year, 'When are we going to see Ekeler and Gordon be that great duo?' because we'd seen it. I think just with what happened with the holdout, Melvin Gordon just wasn't the same. But if you go back to that 2018 season, you see how well Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler played alongside each other. I think that's what Denver fans should expect with Phillip Lindsay. If you can have those guys on the field at the same time, if it's not a third-down situation and you can bring guys in and out, I think you can have those guys on the field on the field at the same time and create matchup problems. I keep saying Melvin Gordon is a bell-cow, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield. … That guy can do pretty much everything. You add what Lindsay can do — and same thing with Lindsay; he's not just a pass-catching, athletic running back. He can run between the tackles. So you put those guys together and you look at what Ekeler and Gordon did in 2018, I think you could see the same results in Denver."
BS: You mentioned the contract dispute last year that caused him to miss four games. It also caused him to miss training camp and other important conditioning programs with the team, and his yards per rush and yards per catch suffered. Assuming he stays healthy and has a full offseason, do you see a bounce-back year for him?
GM: "Yeah, if he stays healthy and has a full training camp, I think he could return to being a Pro Bowl running back. He doesn't turn 27 until next month in April, so he's still a young running back. … He's had some injuries here and there — I mentioned a few games here and there, and the holdout missing four games a year ago — but if he's healthy and fresh and gets a full camp, I think it could be a nice rebound year for Melvin Gordon. And just talking to him a year ago, he kept saying to me, 'I regret not having the training camp [preparation]. People were right; you can't just show up and be the same running back as Day 1.' But he knows in the back of his mind, and I'm sure he's going to have a great offseason and train hard — and I know it's kind of hard to train with all that's going on in the world, but hopefully things get back to normal and Melvin Gordon can do what he usually does and have a nice rebound year."
BS: The Broncos have a young quarterback with Drew Lock. How can a guy like Gordon help Lock, who's still coming along and still learning?
GM: "Like you mentioned, he's been around. He's done pretty much everything. He could talk to Drew Lock; and he's learned from Philip Rivers, so if he can pass on some knowledge from Philip Rivers to Drew Lock, it wouldn't hurt. I think being there and kind of being the veteran guy will benefit Drew Lock. And Melvin Gordon, I know he wasn't ever considered a team captain for the Chargers, but he's a vocal leader. Guys rally behind him. Players love to play with him. During the holdout, people kept saying, 'We miss Melvin Gordon. Bring him back.' They didn't even care about the whole contract situation. They just liked to be around Melvin Gordon. He's a fun guy to be around. And for the beat writers in Denver, they're going to enjoy talking to Melvin Gordon; he's a talkative guy. So, I'm sure Drew Lock will enjoy his company as well."
BS: What made Gordon so effective as a receiving threat in Los Angeles?
GM: "I think he was able to read defenses and see what the situation is. If somebody's not open, he's going to get to the outside and get you yards here and there. Him and Philip Rivers were always kind of in sync, and when you need a little dump-off for 5 yards, he was able to do that. I know he doesn't have that crazy speed like Lindsay or Ekeler to turn those short catches into long gains, but he'll get you the first down. And he's a tough guy to tackle. You've probably seen the highlights where he hurdles over guys and jumps over guys. He's still very athletic. … I know people are making a big deal [like], 'You shouldn't pay a running back, it's not worth the money.' But when it comes to Melvin Gordon, who's just going to turn 27, he's the full package. I think it's a great deal for the Broncos to bring him on — and not just for the receiving. That guy's a touchdown machine. I was saying on Twitter earlier he had 47 total touchdowns for the Chargers, and he didn't even score a touchdown his rookie year. So when you need a 1-yard touchdown or [for him to] just find the end zone, he'll do that for you."