The Los Angeles Chargers are heavy favorites against an injury-riddled Cincinnati Bengals team in Week 14 and as a result, don’t need to risk playing Melvin Gordon.
Though the team expects to have Gordon back soon, he has been ruled out for this matchup.
That means that the duo of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson will share the load at running back, perhaps with Detrez Newsome even getting in on the action. The Chargers were able to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers last week without Gordon.
For Jackson, the time is now for him to step up and not only take the load of Ekeler, but to perhaps assert himself as a player the team has to get touches going forward, even if Gordon is healthy.
Ekeler is a small back and that was the knock on him coming out of college, aside from the fact he was an unknown player from a Division II school. He was given the start against Pittsburgh and rushed for just 21 yards on 13 carries. That’s less than two yards a pop.
Jackson was much more effective, gaining 63 yards on just eight carries while also scoring a touchdown.
Earlier in the week, coach Anthony Lynn talked about Ekeler’s role as one of the key special teams players on the roster and the fact that he may be starting to wear down a bit.
More Lynn, on Ekeler: "He's wearing down a little bit. He's a core special teams guy for us and he's played a lot of running back for us. So he's a little tired. You might see Justin (Jackson) play a little bit more, you might see (Detrez) Newsome play some this week."
— Dave Richard (@daverichard) December 4, 2018
That’s a clear indicator that Jackson wil be in line for more work, and against a defense that hasn’t been able to stop a nose bleed in Cincinnati, he could have a field day.
It seemed that the Chargers had gotten a potential steal when they drafted Jackson, he NCAA’s No. 11 all-time leading rusher, in the seventh round. Injuries limited him in training camp and hurt his chances of making the final roster, as he was initially beaten out by Newsome.
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But to win in the NFL, you must be able to win the war of a ttrition. You must have many capable players to be able to get to the playoffs and win games, just ask the Philadelphia Eagles, who won the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback last year.
It’s smart to rest Gordon another week and hope that he can go this coming Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that could have massive implications. By the time that game rolls around, the Chargers could have a capable three-headed monster at the running back position.
With Gordon and Jackson handling the rushing duties and Ekeler doing what he does best as a third-down back and receiver out of the backfield, the Chargers could look completely different than the first time they met the Chiefs this season.
Of course, they can’t overlook the Bengals and need to go into this game and handle business against them first.