Melvin Gordon squeaked into the top 10 in rushing in 2020, finishing with 986 yards and nine touchdowns on 215 carries -- it's the highest he's finished since his 1,105-yard season in 2017. Entering the final season of his two-year contract with the Denver Broncos, Gordon is out to prove he can remain one of the top rushers in the NFL.
"I don't want people to feel like, 'He's lost a step. He's this or that,'" Gordon told the team's official website this week. "I almost went for 1,000 yards last year while sharing the ball. ... It's important to not only show people, but also show myself, that I'm still this high-caliber back."
From his rookie season alongside Danny Woodhead in San Diego to Austin Ekeler in Los Angeles to Phillip Lindsay last year in Denver, Gordon has always shared the backfield. While Lindsay is gone, the Broncos brought in second-round rookie Javonte Williams and imported backup Mike Boone from Minnesota (where new general manager George Paton worked before joining Denver).
The Broncos backfield is once again shaping up as a committee with Gordon as the lead. Despite entering the season in a contract year, the veteran is ready to battle for snaps.
"Obviously they bring in competition every year and every position," Gordon said. "You can look at things in two different fashions. With the Javonte situation -- you bring in a back in the second round, my contract is about to be up -- so you could look at it as, they brought him here to replace me. Or you can just look at it as, it's just another way for me to get better. Another guy to push me to greater heights and see what I can do, see what I can bring and bring it out of me. ... NFL teams, GMs, head coaches -- their jobs are to continue to bring in talent to keep competition at an all-time high. You can be down about that, or you can show people, this is why I'm the guy. I've been competing my whole career."
Drafting Williams signals the Broncos could move on from Gordon after the 2021 season. The 28-year-old said he'd prefer to prove he's worth sticking around in Denver, as he doesn't want to become known as a journeyman. Alas, such is the life of the modern running back -- look no further than the likes of future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson.
Gordon's advantage in Denver could be on passing downs, depending on how quickly Williams picks up blocking schemes and the rest of the playbook. Gordon's ability to play all three downs could give him a leg up in offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's scheme to start the season.
"I love it," Gordon said of being a three-down player. "It's just what I do and what I pride myself on. I try to be an all-around back, a back that can go in on all downs. It's something that's big with me. You see a lot of guys doing it, and it's just a competition not only within our running back room but within the league. You just want to be able to do it all. That's just what it is. That's my mindset -- to go out there and try to be an all-around back. I don't like coming off the field if I don't have to."
Gordon will have to produce in his carries and snaps to fend off Williams and Boone from eating into his reps as the season progresses.