Joshua Kelley saved the day for the LA Chargers in Week 1 with his offensive firepower, effectively putting Justin Jackson on notice.
No one saw Joshua Kelley‘s performance on Sunday for the LA Chargers coming. A few of my friends asked me whether Kelley was worth stashing on their fantasy rosters this season. Most of the time, I’d shake off the idea by mentioning the dynamic between Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson.
That changed against the Bengals when Jackson was declared out for the rest of the game with a quad injury.
From that point on, Kelley was the second running back. He put on a show by running with great movement and speed for most of the game. In terms of final stats, he ended up with 12 carries for 60 yards and the Chargers’ lone touchdown of the day.
Kelley always had nice power and vision, but the combination of the two that he showed off in Sunday’s game was on another level. He used leverage so well on Sunday and made the Cincinnati defense look silly at times. His agility and vision at the beginning of this play are particularly crazy.
The Bengals had Kelley dead to rights for a two or three-yard loss. That spin move to get out of it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen from him before. The amount of balance required to turn that loss of three into a nine-yard gain is remarkable as well.
Kelley’s truck stick to absolutely light up a Bengals’ defender was another highlight moment. The most important thing from this game for me was just how comfortable the LA Chargers were when it came to trusting Kelley close to the goal line.
No other running backs got carries inside the five, not even Ekeler. Shane Steichen and Anthony Lynn seem to be liking him as a goal-line runner quite a bit with his strength and athleticism.
As for Jackson, he will try to work his way back into the rotation for this week. There’s a strong expectation that Jackson will be back for Week 2 vs. Kansas City. Unless the quad keeps him out for longer than expected, he will likely reclaim the RB2 role for now.
That being said, Kelley is right on his tail after this performance. I wouldn’t call Jackson injury-prone, but the best ability is availability. Nagging lower body injuries doomed him last season and the quad injury allowed Kelley to turn heads this week.
The next two weeks are a critical juncture when it comes to Jackson and Kelley battling it out. Kansas City and Carolina finished towards the bottom of the league in DVOA against the run in 2019. Carolina was actually dead last in that metric. If there’s a time to pile up rush yards and impress the coaching staff, it’s these next two weeks for sure.
I never thought Kelley would be in this position quite this early, but he’s arrived. Instead of being a 2021 factor, Kelley is officially an impact player this year.