COSTA MESA, CA – (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Chargers have a slew of running backs inching to get their turn in the playing rotation. Getting immediate playing time may happen sooner than they anticipated all because of a training camp holdout from one of their brethren, someone who an important cog in the Chargers offensive machine.
On a day when it was reported that the team’s leading rusher Melvin Gordon had demanded to be traded if he is not going to get the money he is seeking under a new contract (Gordon is currently under the last year of his five-year rookie contract), it was business as usual for the other runners.
Without their Alpha backfield star going through the daily grind of training camp thus far, the Chargers other running backs not named Gordon got an opportunity to show off what they can do in the team’s scrimmage against the Los Angeles Rams at the Jack Hammett Farm Sports Complex on Thursday, Aug. 1.
“I feel like we got better today,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “They play at a faster tempo than what we’re used to seeing in practice, and that’s going to get us right for games. That showed up a little bit…conditioning, but a good, clean practice.”
Gordon’s absence from training camp as he reportedly holds out for more money allows other players to shine when their numbers are called. Justin Jackson, Austin Ekeler, Jeremy Cox, and a couple of other backup runners are trying to carve out a niche for themselves in the musical chairs lineup during training camp.
“Today, we had five other running backs working today, and they’re working hard,” Lynn said. “JJ (Justin Jackson) is doing a good job. Austin had a couple of nice runs today. Jeremy’s coming along well, you know, being a rookie and all. He’s playing both positions. I’m really happy with the development of the young guys right now.”
One of those players happens to be Ekeler playing in his third season with the ballclub . Ekeler caught on with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2017. Since then, the 6-foot, 200-pound Ekeler has displayed impressive results-as a runner, pass-catcher, and blocker.
Ekeler’s versatility in the backfield has lessened the workload on Gordon, and at the same time, turned the Chargers into a multi-weapon offensive unit. Last season, Ekeler accounted for nearly 1,000 yards (554 yards rushing; 39 catches, 404 yards in receiving) in total offense.
If Gordon continues to stay away from the team, Ekeler may see his stats increase during the regular season. But for right now, Ekeler’s focus is on training camp and improving. That includes blocking out any type of outside noise.
“I think as a player you kind of have to put blinders on as far as what’s going on in your spot, especially right now. You’re mainly focused on yourself, your team, and your spot, your position, and how you can fit in and how you can increase your role on the team.”
Jackson, in his second year in the league, is in that same mindset of trying to get better.
“It’s all about what can you do to get yourself prepared for the season, what can you do each day to improve your game,” Jackson said. “I think that’s what I love about this team and about each player and individuals, everyone is trying to build on their own game so that you can more value to the team. I know that’s what I’m trying to do. I can pretty confidently say that’s what the other guys are doing, too.”
In his first four years in the NFL, Gordon has rushed for 3,628 yards and 28 touchdowns. His lone season going over the 1,000-yard mark took place during the 2017 season when we rushed 1,105 yards and eight scores through 16 games. In 12 games last season, Gordon rushed for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also added 490 yards and four TDs catching passes out of the backfield.
Dennis is editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about civil rights, education, government, crime, and social justice. Dennis covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. He is a graduate of Howard University. HU!!