Chargers continue RB committee with Justin Jackson out – Press Enterprise
COSTA MESA — Running back Justin Jackson paced on the Chargers’ sideline as distressed fantasy football players waited for his return last week against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Jackson, who injured his knee on the opening drive, returned for one snap, but Chargers coach Anthony Lynn didn’t like what he saw from Jackson and pulled him for good.
Jackson finished with three snaps for zero carries, zero receptions and zilch for his fantasy football owners, who assumed Jackson had taken the reins on the Chargers’ running back committee.
The Chargers have had different lead backs since Austin Ekeler injured his hamstring in Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The committee approach has given defenses – and fantasy football players – fits in the past four games.
Last week, Kalen Ballage took control of the backfield with a team-high 69 rushing yards against the Raiders. The week before that, Troymaine Pope had the surprise performance with 67 rushing yards versus the Denver Broncos.
The Chargers have averaged 146 rushing yards in the four games without Ekeler. In that span, wide receivers Mike Williams, Tyron Johnson, Jalen Guyton and Joe Reed received a carry. Even backup quarterbacks Easton Stick and Tyrod Taylor got a rushing attempt.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen had one snap from the backfield and fullback Gabe Nabers had two receiving touchdowns. The Chargers had seven players with a rushing attempt against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7.
Starting quarterback Justin Herbert and rookie running back Joshua Kelley have also contributed to the Chargers’ rushing committee, a dreaded term in the fantasy football world. Herbert had a team-high 66 rushing yards against the Jaguars.
With Ekeler expected to remain on injured reserve, fantasy football players will have to guess again – along with the Miami Dolphins – on who will be the Chargers’ lead back in Week 10.
Jackson wore a brace over his injured knee and didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice.
“Probably gonna rest him this week and give that knee a chance to get well, but we’ll see,” Lynn said about Jackson. “He’s a competitor, he wants to play. But I just didn’t like the way he looked last week when he came out the game early.”
Jackson has proved to be one of the Chargers’ top playmakers, but he can’t stay on the field because of injuries. The third-year running back was sidelined nine games last season and has missed two games this season.
“Some guys have their injuries early in their career and then they go five or six years injury-free,” Lynn said. “(Jackson) just been in one of those ruts where something has been coming up every single year. He’ll get over it.”
Ballage, the former Dolphin and New York Jet, was reverted to the practice squad, but he’ll likely return to the active roster if Jackson is unavailable. Ballage was called up last week because Pope was in the concussion protocol.
“I think he’s taking the coaching,” Lynn said about Ballage, who signed with the Chargers last month. “I think he’s better than what he was when he was at those places (Dolphins and Jets). But it didn’t surprise me when he went into the game and had some success. The young man has a nice skillset.”
On Wednesday, Pope was removed from the concussion protocol and returned to practice as a full participant. Pope was promoted from the practice squad because Ekeler was placed on injured reserve.
Pope and Ballage have impressed the past two weeks, but Kelley continues to be heavily involved, despite his recent struggles. Kelley led the running backs in snaps last week with 43, but had only 28 yards on nine carries.
The Chargers found success on the ground with their committee, but that hasn’t made up for Ekeler’s high production in the passing game.
Until Ekeler returns, the Chargers will continue to ride the hot hand to leave opponents and fantasy football players guessing.
“It’s the flow of the game,” Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “You kinda go with it and see how it’s rolling. See how guys are playing.”
BOSA STILL IN CONCUSSION PROTOCOL
Defensive end Joey Bosa returned to practice Wednesday as a limited participant, but he hasn’t been cleared from the concussion protocol. Bosa was inactive last week against the Raiders.
Right guard Trai Turner (groin) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (back) were also limited Wednesday. Bulaga aggravated his back on the opening drive versus the Raiders, and Turner hasn’t played since Week 2.