Chargers versus Cardinals: Who to watch this Thursday

By Tyler Schoon
CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Wide receiver Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers makes a catch for a touchdown in front of cornerback Bene' Benwikere #23 of the Arizona Cardinals to trail 10-7 in the second quarter at StubHub Center on November 25, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Wide receiver Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers makes a catch for a touchdown in front of cornerback Bene' Benwikere #23 of the Arizona Cardinals to trail 10-7 in the second quarter at StubHub Center on November 25, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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CARSON, CA – DECEMBER 09: Running back Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers makes a run play in front of outside linebacker Nick Vigil #59 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the third quarter at StubHub Center on December 9, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA – DECEMBER 09: Running back Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers makes a run play in front of outside linebacker Nick Vigil #59 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the third quarter at StubHub Center on December 9, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Chargers running backs

Melvin Gordon may not be joining the offense this week, yet the running back spot is more exciting than ever. In the absence of the franchise back, three young players have come forward to fill every role No. 25 (formerly No. 28) has had with the team since 2015.

Austin Ekeler is the popular choice to win the starting spot in the rotation, given both his efficiency as a runner or receiver as well as his familiarity with the offense. Of the three backs currently with the team, No. 30 has played the most snaps. One thing that isn’t talked about enough with Ekeler are the games he’s missed; in two years, Ekeler has missed four games due to injury, with each pair coming near the end of the regular season. It’s not too concerning just yet, but it is worth monitoring.

That’s why Justin Jackson, the team’s seventh-round draft pick last year, may have a chance at an even carry split. Both have been in the backfield at the same time on multiple occasions throughout training camp, hinting at a potentially more creative rushing attack that highlights the diversity of its players. Detrez Newsome, the third and final of the trio, was last year’s preseason standout. He’s been given his own reps with the first-team offense as well.

Each is expected to play well in the preseason, but fans are more interested in seeing how each is utilized in the offense. Something special might be in the works for this trio, and how Ken Whisenhunt plans to use them may be first revealed this Thursday.

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