LA Chargers News

LA Chargers: Grading the 2020 running back group

CARSON, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Justin Jackson #22 (L) and Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrate Ekeler's game winning touchdown in overtime against the Indianapolis Colts at Dignity Health Sports Park on September 08, 2019 in Carson, California. The Chargers defeated the Colts 30-24 in overtime. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
CARSON, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Justin Jackson #22 (L) and Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrate Ekeler's game winning touchdown in overtime against the Indianapolis Colts at Dignity Health Sports Park on September 08, 2019 in Carson, California. The Chargers defeated the Colts 30-24 in overtime. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) – LA Chargers

Justin Jackson

Coming into 2019, Justin Jackson was effectively the second running back in the rotation. With Gordon out, he ended up moving up a spot. He played pretty well in the first two games, but unfortunately suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out until November. With Gordon coming back into the fold and Jackson nursing an injury, his role in the offense was diminished from where it was earlier in the season.

When Jackson is healthy, he’s one of the better back up running backs in the league. He’s able to leverage a pretty nice balance of speed and size against opposing defenses. His efficiency when running between the tackles is solid. It’s a matter of whether the Chargers feel as confident in him as they did before the calf injury last year.

Using a fourth round pick on Joshua Kelley makes it seems like they want more insurance at the position in case Jackson goes down again. Kelley, who we’ll get to later, is an important variable in Jackson’s playing time. Prior to the draft, the carry counts would’ve been something like 65-70% for Ekeler and 30-35% for Jackson. The Chargers locking up Ekeler to a long term deal and using a fairly high draft pick on a running back doesn’t bode well for Jackson.

Jackson will start the year as running back two in the rotation, but it’s clear he’ll have to fight to keep that spot. Anthony Lynn has talked about Jackson needing to stay on the field. If he can stay healthy, the odds are pretty good for him to play well in a contract year behind an improved offensive line.

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