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Chargers RB Gordon showing versatility as a receiver

September 18, 2018
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Los Angeles Chargers' Melvin Gordon, top left, celebrates a touchdown with Dan Feeney during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — If the first two weeks are going to serve as a harbinger for the rest of the season, defensive coordinators are going to have another concern when figuring out how to defend Melvin Gordon.

The Los Angeles Chargers running back leads the team in receptions with 15 after the first two games. Gordon had six receptions for 38 yards in Sunday’s 31-20 win at Buffalo with two of his three touchdowns coming on catches

It is the second time in the past two seasons that Gordon has had a two-game stretch of 15 receptions, but it appears as if he is being counted on more as a receiving option.

Quarterback Philip Rivers said after Sunday’s game that Gordon’s development has been a gradual build and that he has embraced the passing game more.

When Gordon was drafted by the Chargers in 2015, Danny Woodhead was the prime receiving option out of the backfield. When Woodhead got injured in 2016, Gordon had to learn on the fly.

“I think now he’s at a point where he sees the running back as a three-down position and also who cares how you get the touches,” said Rivers, who threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns. “It’s not a 25-carry, 150-yard league anymore. It’s a 16 carries, seven receptions. How many touches does he get for 150? I mean you see it around the league the best backs that’s what they do, I think he also has embraced that.”

Gordon’s two touchdown catches came on different routes. On the first one with 10:43 remaining in the second quarter, he sold the play action and then beat Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds on an out route for a 9-yard score. The second one was wheel route on third-and-goal from the Bills’ 2 where he got separation from linebacker Matt Milano.

“He had his play action, he made sure he checked his protection. He got out and separated in a hurry,” said Rivers of the first touchdown. “I was really getting ready to throw that to Tyrell (Williams). Then I was like, Oh, there’s Melvin, mid-delivery. That was nice by him.”

Coach Anthony Lynn said Monday that when he was hired by the Chargers last year he saw that Gordon had excellent hands and was developing as a route runner.

“Just with studying the 2016 tape when I first came, I thought, ‘This guy catches the ball a lot better than I thought.’ Then he backed it up,” Lynn said. “Sometimes, the best matchup might be Melvin on a linebacker as opposed to (wide receiver) Keenan (Allen) on a cornerback.”

Gordon sustained an upper body injury that kept him out for most of the fourth quarter, but Lynn said he should be ready to go for Sunday’s game against the Rams.

Running backs have accounted for three of Rivers’ six touchdown passes this season. Austin Ekeler had a TD catch in the Week 1 loss to the Chiefs. Ekeler was the Chargers’ leading rusher at Buffalo with 77 yards on 11 carries while Gordon had nine carries for 28 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown during the first quarter.

The Chargers offense will face a big test this week, going up against an unbeaten Rams defense that hasn’t allowed a point in six quarters and only one touchdown this season. There will also be more hype to the game locally since it matches two Los Angeles NFL teams for the first time since 1994, when the Rams faced the Raiders.

With the 1-1 Chargers having a “home” game in London next month, the short road trip is welcomed by players and the coaching staff.

“It’s kind of a home game, but it’s going to be on their turf. We’re going to stay downtown and treat it like it’s an away game and go through our normal ‘away’ routine,” Lynn said.

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Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy

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