Justin Jackson will compete for the No. 2 running back role with the Chargers this preseason. He actually had a shot to be the team's No. 1 running back when Austin Ekeler got hurt last year and wasn't bad, garnering 13.3 PPR points per game for three weeks before getting hurt himself. In fact, Jackson's missed 19 games over three seasons. Keep that in mind when you think about Jackson. Rookie Larry Rountree will compete for the gig along with Joshua Kelley. None are worth anything more than a late-round speculative pick.
Jackson returned to practice Thursday, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reports. Jackson has been cleared to practice after a two-day stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He's competing with Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree and Darius Bradwell for depth roles behind Austin Ekeler, though the No. 2 running back -- potentially Jackson -- could see quite a few carries. Injuries have limited Jackson, a 2018 seventh-round pick, to 29 games in three seasons with the Chargers.
Jackson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Gilbert Manzano of The Orange County Register reports. Assuming Jackson doesn't take too long to recover, the issue shouldn't really hinder his ability to contribute on offense in 2021. However, he was already set to compete with Joshua Kelley for backup duties behind Austin Ekeler and got some added competition in the form of Larry Rountree. Jackson will start a bit behind his teammates in getting up to speed in a new offense, which certainly doesn't help his cause.
Jackson faces additional competition for the backup running back job after the Chargers drafted Larry Rountree in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reports. Given the draft capital invested in Joshua Kelley last year, the assumption is the No. 3 RB job likely will come down to Jackson, newcomer Rountree and long-time practice squad candidate Darius Bradwell. The three-year pro arguably has been one of the team's more productive late-round picks in recent memory, rushing for at least 200 yards in each of his first three seasons despite never seeing more than 60 carries, but he didn't solidify himself as a capable fill-in option when Austin Ekeler was sidelined for six games last year. Rountree lacks the quick-cut explosiveness that Jackson has demonstrated at the pro level, but he does seem to have a nose for the end zone, having scored a career-best 14 touchdowns in a shortened 2020 season.
Jackson carried the ball nine times for 72 yards and also caught one of his two receptions for 32 yards in Sunday's 38-21 win over the Chiefs. It's worth noting the Chiefs benched the majority of their starters having already locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC prior to Sunday's affair, but the 104 total yards on just 10 touches is still a nice reminder of Jackson's talents after being buried behind Kalen Ballage for much of the second half of the season. Austin Ekeler, who left Sunday's game with a concussion, will still be the unquestioned starter entering next year, but there will be legitimate intrigue regarding the backup role with Ballage, Jackson, 2020 fourth-round pick Joshua Kelley and possibly a few more names all in the mix for the position in 2021. Perhaps more crucially for Jackson's fantasy prospects will be the status of head coach Anthony Lynn, whose insistence on utilizing two backs has given Jackson far more opportunities than one might expect given his prospect profile. A change at head coach and in offensive philosophy might relegate Jackson, and to a larger extent any Chargers running back aside from Ekeler, from a capable fringe backup in deeper leagues to a complete afterthought.
Jackson tallied just four yards on two carries in the 19-16 win over the Broncos on Sunday. Not much to see here as Jackson registered just eight offensive snaps -- eight less than clear-cut backup Kalen Ballage and a whopping 29 less than starter Austin Ekeler. Despite playing in just eight games this season, the third-year pro needs just nine more yards to surpass his career-high in rushing.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/12||@Washington Football Team||3||14.24|
|3||09/26||@Kansas City Chiefs||25||19.32|
|4||10/04||Las Vegas Raiders||29||22.38|
|8||10/31||New England Patriots||21||18.88|
|14||12/12||New York Giants||17||17.50|
|15||12/16||Kansas City Chiefs||25||19.32|
|18||01/09||@Las Vegas Raiders||29||22.38|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||46||225||1||14||110||0||39|