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How RB Melvin Gordon, reportedly headed to Denver, fits with the Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos find themselves in rare company.

After Denver reportedly agreed to terms with Melvin Gordon on Friday, the Broncos are one of just three NFL teams with multiple Pro Bowlers at the running back position.

And for a Denver team that has struggled to score points in recent years, that's good news.

The Broncos were the only team in 2019 to finish the season in the bottom five in points per game, yards per game, red-zone efficiency and third-down percentage.

Even as the passing game improved late in the year, the running game struggled.

Phillip Lindsay and Co. ranked 16th in rushing through the season's first 11 games but fell to 29th during the final five games of the season.

Gordon represents an opportunity to make sure that doesn't happen again.

When healthy, the 26-year-old running back is among the game's most dynamic players. In his five seasons in the NFL, Gordon has tallied more than 1,000 all-purpose yards in three seasons and has made a pair of Pro Bowls.

He's also the only player in the NFL to rush for at least eight touchdowns in each of the last four seasons. Toss in his receiving touchdowns, and Gordon has tallied an average of 11.75 touchdowns per season during that span.

He could particularly help a Broncos offense that struggled in the red zone. On the goal line, Gordon has a knack for earning tough yards and finding the end zone.

Gordon's best attribute, though, may be his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In new Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur's offense, that's often a requirement of running backs.

"I think it is important for a runner to be able to catch," Shurmur said in early February. "There are three elements to playing running back. Number one, when you hand it to them, they have to have good vision, balance, body control, collision balance and they have to be able to run with the ball and score. You certainly need to be able to pass protect to protect the quarterback. If you can't catch the ball out of the backfield or you can't have an impact in some way — and it doesn't mean down the field, but maybe it's a checkdown or something thing in the flat — then it's hard to be a full runner."

Gordon has caught at least 40 passes in four of his five seasons and has gone over 400 yards in three of the five campaigns.

Broncos fans may remember the 2017 season opener against the Chargers, when Gordon caught a pass on an angle route from Philip Rivers and hurdled Justin Simmons to score a touchdown.

Whether Gordon implements this ability on early downs or on key third downs, he should be a matchup problem for linebackers. And if the Broncos can take advantage, they should be able to take a massive step forward in that area.

Gordon's arrival should also help Phillip Lindsay. While Lindsay is viewed in some league circles as a change-of-pace back, his between-the-tackles style actually mirrors Gordon's ability.

The two get through the tackles differently, though. Lindsay's speed helps him get through small holes, and then he's able to turn on the afterburners to get to the next level. Gordon, meanwhile, can run over a linebacker. His power and balance result in plenty of broken tackles.

The two seemed poised to help each other, as Lindsay could perhaps benefit from a reduction in carries. As a rookie he toted the ball 192 times and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. A year later, as he carried the ball 224 times, his yards per carry average dropped to 4.5.

In 2019, he also only tallied 22 rushes of at least 10 yards after recording 30 such runs during his rookie year.

If Gordon helps to share the load, that explosiveness could return.

Even as Gordon split time with Austin Ekeler in LA in 2019, he still received 162 carries. That's 30 more carries than Royce Freeman had last season. Gordon was also targeted 55 times.

Head Coach Vic Fangio has not yet described how he imagines the rotation will work between Gordon and Lindsay, as the deal between the Broncos and Gordon is not yet official.

As such, it's hard to predict which player will start, who will get the majority of third-down reps and who will get the ball in crunch time. The split between carries, however, will likely be much less dramatic than it was in 2019.

If Gordon is to be successful, though, he must focus on ball security. During Lindsay's two seasons in the NFL, he has not fumbled. Gordon, meanwhile, lost three fumbles in 2019 and has fumbled 14 times in his five seasons.

Gordon must also find a way to stay on the field. He has played 16 games just once in his career, though he did not miss a game due to injury in 2019. He played 12 games after he missed the first four contests due to a contract dispute.

When healthy, though, there are few runners as dynamic as Gordon. And with him in the fold, the Broncos' offense could take a major step in 2020.

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