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Chargers RB Justin Jackson Emerging as Number Two Behind Austin Ekeler

ChargerReport
ChargerReport
 2021-12-31

The Chargers offense has been waiting for 15 weeks for a second running back to step up and help take the pressure off Austin Ekeler. He has repeatedly said that he is okay splitting time with other backs as long as there is production.

There had been small spurts of it.

They have had Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree, Joshua Kelley, and brought up Darius Bradwell from the practice squad.

After these last two weeks, it seems like Jackson may be the answer.

He stepped up against Kansas City two weeks ago when Ekeler was slowed down due to an ankle injury, so Jackson took over the duties. He patiently waited for holes to open up, then hit them and gained an extra few yards. He ended up with 86 rushing yards on 13 carries.

He showed out even more in Houston, rushing for 64 yards with two touchdowns and adding 98 receiving yards. He did have a fumble in the game, but that doesn’t take away from him finally producing consistently.

“We could clean up some stuff here and there, but I was definitely happy to see my guy out there and get an opportunity to lead the running back role,” Ekeler explained. “I know, going into this week, it’s going to be both of us, now, coming in and being efficient.”

Ekeler mentioned on Wednesday how proud he was of Jackson. The former Northwestern running back showed glimpses of being a solid backup in 2018 but has been slowed down by numerous injuries since then.

He seems healthy, heading into two of the most important games this season for the Chargers, with the playoffs on the line.

“When I get my opportunities, when I’m out there on the field, at that moment in time, you are the starting back,” Jackson said. “That’s how I look at it. I just go out there and play. If I have the opportunity and honor to get my number called for a play, I want to go out there and put everything I have on the line every single play.”

Now that he has emerged and Ekeler will be back this weekend, it will be interesting to see if the Chargers offense throws a little something different at the Broncos. In the past, the offense has used a running back with their quarterback while Ekeler is in the slot going in motion and either taking the handoff or running a route.

To move the ball against that Broncos defense, the Chargers may have to use a lot of different combinations and formations. That defense is tough.

In their first matchup with Denver, the Chargers didn’t move the ball well on the ground, and maybe that is because Jackson didn’t play. He will be ready on Sunday to add a boost to the run game.

“I think it’s huge,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “There are very few runners in the NFL that can carry it 25 times per game for the whole season. Having two guys that can give you production when they’re in the game is really important.”

Williams is back

It seemed like the Chargers would be without their top receiver in Mike Williams when he was placed on the COVID list over the weekend. The new CDC rules allowed him to return after five days in isolation.

He was activated off the COVID list on Thursday afternoon and practiced. He did have to miss last Sunday’s game against Houston but will be back against the Broncos.

Quarterback Justin Herbert will have his receiving duo of Williams and Keenan Allen against what will be the biggest test of his young career so far.

“Major,” Allen said. “I’ve been saying all year that he’s our guy. He’s going to get us the big points, the major points that we’ve been missing. It would be great to have him back.”

Nuts N’ Bolts

· Cornerback Michael Davis was activated off the COVID list and was on the practice field on Thursday.

· The Chargers still have nine active roster players on the COVID list that includes three starters on offense/defense plus two special teams starters.

· Injury report. DNP: LB Drue Tranquill (ankle). Limited: S Derwin James (hamstring). Full: TE Stephen Anderson (shoulder), CB Tevaughn Campbell (hamstring), DL Linval Joseph (shoulder), OLB Uchenna Nwosu (shoulder/hip), DL Jerry Tillery (ankle).

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