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 Rob Leiter via Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Rob Leiter via Getty Images) – LA Chargers

Final grade

The LA Chargers have other running backs currently on the roster like Derrick Gore and undrafted free agent Darius Bradwell, but it feels unlikely that either will make the final roster. Gore probably has a leg up on the competition if the Chargers decide to carry a fourth running back.

Ekeler, Jackson, and Kelley make up the 2020 group for all intents and purposes. While terms like “running back by committee” get thrown around in reference to the Chargers, Ekeler will get a substantial majority of the carries. I’d be very surprised if it was really running back by committee and Ekeler didn’t get 60+% of the carries.  After the season he had last year, he deserves to be the starter for a full 16 game season. I’m curious to see how he reacts to defenses adjusting to him after the season he had last year.

With the playing experience Jackson has, he will enter 2020 as the second back in the rotation. It’s all about availability and health for him, as he enters a crucial contract year. If Jackson stays healthy, he can take advantage of a revamped offensive line to get himself back to his late 2018 form. His efficiency when running is the best out of the group.

Kelley will be the wildcard in his first season with the team. A change-of-pace role would be nice for him. He’s not as proficient between the tackles as other running backs, but if he manages to get downhill it’s dangerous for opposing defenses. Complementing Ekeler and Jackson while trying to compete for a long term role on the team is Kelley’s mission in year one.

2020 Roster Grades. The Wide Receivers

The running back group is generally good. However, there are some questions that need to be answered over the course of the season. Can Ekeler handle a full year with the starter role? Does Jackson stay healthy? How much of an impact can Kelley have on his snaps? There should be a lot of confidence in this group, but also a bit of a wait and see mentality.

Chargers RB Grade: B

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