LA Chargers News

If Justin Jackson shines, then what?

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 07: Justin Jackson #21 of the Northwestern Wildcats runs against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ryan Field on October 7, 2017 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 07: Justin Jackson #21 of the Northwestern Wildcats runs against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ryan Field on October 7, 2017 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson is set to make his NFL debut Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers. Is it too late for him to make the roster?

The Chargers drafted Justin Jackson in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Northwestern product currently ranks No. 11 in all-time rushing yards in NCAA history.

It was a bit of a surprise to see him fall that far. But the Chargers, who needed some depth behind Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, snatched him up.

Unfortunately, Jackson suffered a hamstring injury during training camp and sat out the first three preseason games. He’s now expected to play in the preseason finale against the 49ers.

However, Jackson might have lost his chance to make the initial 53-man roster. Why is that? Because undrafted rookie Detrez Newsome has looked really good running the football.

Newsome has carried the ball 35 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns, excluding another long touchdown run that was called back due to offensive holding. He’s also caught nine balls for 66 yards. Newsome leads the Chargers in both rushing yards and receptions thus far.

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Gordon and Ekeler, who looked great as a starter in last week’s game, aren’t going anywhere. But the Chargers have a decision to make on whether to keep three or four running backs. Only three running backs made the final cut the last two years. In 2017, Gordon, Ekeler and Branden Oliver were on the active roster. In 2016, Gordon, Danny Woodhead and Kenneth Farrow made it (Oliver suffered a torn Achilles in the preseason). The last time they kept four backs was in 2015, when they had Gordon, Woodhead, Oliver and Donald Brown.

You’ll notice that an undrafted rookie running back made the roster the last three years. Newsome has good odds, especially after playing the way he’s played.

But do the Chargers want to give up on their draft pick that quickly? Jackson has a ton of potential and shouldn’t be overlooked just because of an injury. He’ll have to give it his all and show the coaches what he’s made of Thursday. If he shines, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chargers keep four running backs.

Because I’m not sure Jackson will clear waivers and make the practice squad should he get cut.

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