Melvin Gordon helps Chargers' running game get a little better

Melvin Gordon helps Chargers' running game get a little better
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon gets past Giants linebacker Keenan Robinson for a touchdown in the second half. (Bill Kostroun / Associated Press)

The numbers are ugly. Coach Anthony Lynn knows it. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt knows it. Quarterback Philip Rivers knows it.

The Chargers have struggled to move the ball on offense, but the reality is the quagmire is on the ground. Only three teams are doing it worse — the Giants, the Dolphins and the Cardinals.


But the good news — and really, there is some — is that the numbers used to be worse.

Running back Melvin Gordon ensured that the team's per-game rushing average would jump when he ran for 105 yards Sunday in the Chargers' win over the Giants. Gordon added 58 yards receiving and two touchdowns, earning him AFC offensive player of the week.

"I felt like Melvin did get into a little bit of rhythm where he was seeing it well and trusting himself," Rivers said.

Rivers has had a front-row seat to the herky-jerky, boom-or-bust Chargers offense. The problems on the ground, where the Chargers are gaining just 78.8 yards a game, are a big reason why the Chargers haven't figured it all out heading into Sunday's game at the Oakland Raiders.

The team has trailed early in games, Lynn said, and it has felt as if they needed to hurry to catch up. That leads to more passing. That also leads to less rushes for Gordon, and means it's harder to keep him in a rhythm.

Rivers cited negative plays early in drives as another reason why the team hasn't been able to commit to the run.

"Whether you're the play-caller or just general philosophy, if you call a run and it's second-and-11, it doesn't really encourage you to keep calling them," Rivers said. "We've had some. Obviously, last week was a lot better. Managing first and second down, and then if we're better on third down, which we have been the last two weeks, then you get more first downs and then you get more runs.

"It goes back to what I've said about the rhythm. We've just been so inconsistent."

Like the Giants last week, the Raiders have struggled to stop the run, , giving Gordon and the Chargers another chance to correct a problem that's haunted them most of the season.

"Melvin stepped up," Lynn said of Gordon. "He had one of his better days, but he had more opportunities. We have to make sure he continues to get those opportunities."

Carr on track to start

When the diagnosis first came through — a fracture in the back of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr — people braced for the worst. Carr, though, got right back to work.

"I mean I must be a little weird. I must be a little different, but as soon as they told me, I said 'OK, it's just going to hurt to play through this week,' " Carr said. "You know, my mind-set was to be ready to play and not to miss a game. And I did everything from my end to make sure that I was physically capable and ready to play."

Carr wasn't ready to place last Sunday, so the Raiders started EJ Manuel and lost at home to Baltimore. But Carr was close.


This Sunday, it seems as if he'll be on the field when the Raiders host the Chargers.

"I expect to be," Carr said, "but I just got to take it one day at a time and work as hard as I can to make sure I can be out there."

Williams getting closer

Contrary to reports, the team hasn't committed to wide receiver Mike Williams making his NFL debut Sunday against Oakland. He was limited again in practice Wednesday.

Still, Lynn made it clear that it won't be long.

"We've added more every single week and I think he's really close," Lynn said. "We'll see where he is at the end of the week."

Lynn said Williams, who has yet to go through a full practice, will get an expanded workload this week with the team ready to see if his success in college can translate.

"He's done a really good job in practice of taking some reps, getting acclimated to what we're doing," Whisenhunt said. "We'll continue to work him in and see where he is. He's a big guy that really has outstanding hands. You can see that. That's evident from what he did in college. And we're excited to see what he can do."


Running back Branden Oliver, who didn't play Sunday because of a hamstring injury, was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice. … Linebacker Jatavis Brown (ankle) and tackle Joe Barksdale (foot) are still nursing injuries from last week, though both were able to play against the Giants. … Longtime Chargers defensive assistant coach and coordinator John Pagano is with the Raiders after spending 15 years with the San Diego organization. "He's got a wealth of experience and a lot of knowledge, and he's a great communicator," Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said. "He's been a great addition for us."

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports