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The Los Angeles Chargers‘ durable running back doesn’t look a whole lot like his Los Angeles Rams counterpart. That didn’t dissuade the fan, he recalled with a grimace.
“I’m just starting to figure out that people just see a man with dreads and muscles and be like, ‘Oh, he’s such and such,'” Gordon said. “Because I get called Derrick Henry, too, and I don’t even look close to Derrick Henry, or Todd. … Sometimes you can be understandable, but when you argue with me about being that person, that’s when it’s an issue.”
Heading into his fifth season in the Chargers’ backfield and his second year in LA, Gordon is poised to make sure everybody knows his name this fall.
Gordon got better as last season went on for the Chargers, becoming fresher and more dangerous during their late surge into the playoff race. Looking back, Gordon realizes he improved because he got healthier — so he took steps to make sure he would be fresh from the start of training camp for the grind of the regular season.
“I’m trying to do the most I can, because you never know,” Gordon said. “I feel good. I haven’t been feeling like this in a while now, for about a couple of years, and I’ve just been having to push through it. I think that little time I took off kind of helped me out a lot.”
Gordon stayed away from the Chargers during part of organized team activities this year, altering his offseason preparations to keep himself fresh. He picked up a nagging knee injury early last season while pushing himself to impress first-year coach Anthony Lynn, and his season picked up speed only when the knee began to heal. His final five games of the season were outstanding, and he finished as the NFL’s seventh-leading rusher with a career-high 1 Matt Judon Jersey ,105 yards and eight touchdowns.
Gordon credits his improved health for the surge, but also his mental toughness.
“I’ve always felt like it’s a mindset really toward the end of the year, how you approach it,” Gordon said. “Some guys go through those first eight weeks of the season, guys that are excited to play, excited to put on the uniform, but then it gets old. Then guys are trying to stay healthy, and then guys that were coming in trying to make those tackles aren’t really trying to make those tackles anymore. To me, my mindset is, I’m going to make you pay. You think it’s going to be a breeze your last eight weeks, and I’m going to turn it up.”
Gordon has steadily evolved as a versatile back in his four NFL seasons since leaving Wisconsin. He also caught 58 passes for 476 yards last year, and he didn’t fumble all year until the season finale.
“I thought he was healthy. That’s the biggest difference that I saw on Melvin,” Lynn said. “He looked healthy. He had some juice, and he’s a strong guy, has a lot of stamina. As the season went on, he just got stronger.”
Along with his improved health, Gordon also expects to get a boost from the addition of center Mike Pouncey, a punishing run-blocker for the Miami Dolphins for the past seven seasons. The Chargers had one of the NFL’s worst yards-per-carry averages last season (3.8), and Pouncey could be a key to unlocking longer runs.
“The way he gets to the second level for those blocks, it’s crazy Tyson Barrie Jersey ,” Gordon said.
The Chargers already picked up Gordon’s fifth-year contract option for 2019, but he knows the upcoming season will have a major impact on the length and size of his next contract — and he isn’t afraid of the scrutiny.
Gordon realizes that his optimism and enthusiasm can be contagious for the Chargers, but only when he’s healthy and productive. After appearing in all 16 games last fall for the first time in his career, he’s hoping for production to match Gurley or any other running back who kind of looks like him this fall.
“I just see Melvin running around healthy,” Lynn said. “And when a guy is running around healthy, you know he’s in a different mindset. He’s having fun. He’s enjoying the game.”
New Orleans Saints players can't miss the large banner affixed to an exterior wall at team headquarters.
On coach Sean Payton's instructions, it was placed near the entrance to the locker room from outdoor practice fields, and reads: "Prove them right."
That says all anyone needs to know about the expectations surrounding the Saints, who rode a youth movement to within one play of last season's NFC title game.
"The guys at the top 鈥?we've got to prove them right," explained cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Defensively, Lattimore said, the Saints expect to climb into the top five after ranking 17th last season and no better than 27th the three seasons before that.
"We can't just say it. We've got to work at it," Lattimore said. "If we do that, we're going to be good."
Goals are also lofty on offense, a unit that has consistently ranked among the NFL's best ever since quarterback Drew Brees and Payton, who designs the offense, joined forces in 2006.
Last season, the Saints ranked second offensively and were more balanced that usual, thanks to the Pro Bowl running back tandem of Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara and veteran Mark Ingram.
"We haven't lost veteran guys. We've gone and acquired some more veteran leadership and some guys that are great in the locker room Womens Sean Couturier Jersey ," Brees said. "We've got this young talent that is continuing to develop, and I think you're always looking forward to seeing that jump from Year 1 to Year 2 with certain guys, and Year 2 to Year 3 for other guys."
Last season, it took an unlikely 61-yard touchdown pass as time expired 鈥?the Minneapolis Miracle 鈥?to lifted the Vikings past the Saints in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Now New Orleans enters 2018 determined to take care of unfinished business.
Some things to watch with the Saints:
STEADY BREES: If the Saints make it as far as the NFC title game, their star quarterback will have just turned 40. But quarterbacks like Brees and New England's Tom Brady are trying to redefine QB longevity in this era of evolving training methods and NFL rules designed to protect quarterbacks. In 2017, Brees had his least prolific season as a Saint with 4,334 yards passing, but that appeared to be by design. Not only did New Orleans have a resurgent running game, but Brees was more accurate than ever, setting an NFL record with his 72 percent completion rate. In addition to Pro Bowl receiver Michael Thomas and veteran Ted Ginn Jr., Brees has two new intriguing targets: Chicago's 2016 receiving leader, Cameron Meredith, and rookie Tre'Quan Smith.
This season, Brees likely will eclipse Peyton Manning's NFL record 71,940 career yards passing. Brees also enters the season tied for third all-time in TD passes with Brady at 488, 20 behind Brett Favre and 51 behind Manning.
YOUNG STARS: In 2017, the Saints became the first team in half a century to field offensive and defensive rookies of the year in the same season. Could Kamara and Lattimore possibly have better seasons in store? Kamara was New Orleans' second-leading rusher with 728 yards and eight TDs, as well as the club's second-leading receiver with 81 catches for 826 yards and five TDs. He also had a 106-yard kickoff return for a score, giving him a team-leading 14 total TDs.
Lattimore was a big reason the Saints went from last in the NFL in yards passing allowed in 2016 to 15th in 2017. He covered opponents' top receivers and finished with five interceptions to go with 18 passes defended, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
INGRAM'S ABSENCE: Ingram says his goal remains to surpass 1 Darren Helm Jersey ,000 yards rushing this season, even though he'll only have 12 games to do it. He won't be a factor in New Orleans' first four games because of his suspension for use of a banned substance. Payton designs game plans to suit the strengths of available players, so Ingram's absence won't necessarily force the Saints to use another player in Ingram's role. But any time a team losses a player who rushed for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs, it's bound to present challenges. Kamara could wind up with more work. Other running backs getting looks in the preseason were sixth-rounder Boston Scott, third-year pro Jonathan Williams and veteran Shane Vereen.
EDGE PRESSURE: Payton said at the start of the offseason that his priorities included improving the pass rush. That was not a knock on Cameron Jordan , a first-time All-Pro with 13 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 28 QB hits, 11 passes defended, two forced fumbles and an interception for a touchdown. But Jordan could use help. New Orleans used its top draft choice 鈥?14th overall 鈥?on Marcus Davenport, an end out of UTSA. His progress has been slowed by a groin pull in training camp. Beyond that, New Orleans hopes Alex Okafor returns effectively from his torn Achilles tendon and that Trey Hendrickson, the last of three third-round draft choices in 2017, shows considerable progress.
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