SAN DIEGO – Hesitant and tentative running the football earlier this offseason, San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon appeared more decisive making cuts during the team’s mandatory minicamp this week.
Six months removed from microfracture surgery on his left knee during his rookie season, Gordon was a full participant in practice this week. He said he remains on target to be fully healthy once training camp begins at the end of July.
“I'm pretty good,” Gordon said Wednesday. “I think I'm making some cuts I need to make. At first I was missing some cuts that I thought I could make, that I was seeing, but I didn’t feel I could get there. Now, anytime I see a cut or a cut that needs to be made, I can make it.”
Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said the team continues to experiment and tinker with the run game and what will be the most effective plays for Gordon, a process that will continue through training camp and exhibition play.
But so far, Whisenhunt likes what he has seen from Gordon.
“He definitely finished strong,” Whisenhunt said. “You can see him get more comfortable with the runs we’re asking him to do. Part of it is what does he do well? Early in this period, he wasn’t doing a whole lot; he was just doing the individual drills. And I think part of it for him was getting it through his mind that he was ready to go.
“Probably over the last two weeks I’ve seen some real nice cuts, some explosive runs. And hopefully that trend will continue.”
While he struggled with fumbling and attacking the hole through the first half of his rookie year, Gordon said he actually began to feel more comfortable on the field during the second half of the season before suffering the knee injury in a Week 14 contest against the Miami Dolphins.
Gordon finished with 641 yards on 184 carries and zero touchdowns, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. He fumbled six times and lost four. During his final season at Wisconsin, Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns on 7.5 yards per carry.
“I really started feeling confidence toward the end of the season, before I got hurt,” Gordon said. “I was running pretty hard. I felt I was going to do the things I needed to do. I was trying to reach 1,000 yards.
“The way I was running, no one could tell me I wasn’t. I was trying to win out and finish off strong. One thing we don’t do here is quit. I wasn’t going to quit on my goals. We kind of knew what the record was, but I wasn’t going to quit on the team either. Unfortunately, I got hurt even as my confidence was starting to rise. It’s even better out here now. I’m starting to understand everything now.”
Whisenhunt said that confidence and offseason work for Gordon will make him a more effective player in his second NFL season.
“Going from the style of run game that he was used to in college to the difference in the NFL is an adjustment,” Whisenhunt said. “And there’s always going to be some rocky periods your rookie year, not only from the standpoint of schematically, but even with the talent you’re going up against.
“The holes that were there in college close up a lot faster in this league. You have to understand sometimes one cut and go, and maybe you’ll break through a tackle. Those are the kinds of things I think part of your rookie year is getting a feel for that. Unfortunately he got nicked up at times, but there’s no question there’s talent there.”