The Chargers in the past have crowded the running back room before training camp with about seven to eight players. As training camp nears this season, they have five on the roster. It consists of two veterans and three younger backs.
The emergence of quarterback Justin Herbert means that the Bolts have a strong-armed quarterback, but that doesn’t mean they will count on him to throw 50 times a game. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and Co. want balance for this new offense. They want to be able to run the football consistently and get positive yardage.
That was another reason why Chargers brass went out and revamped their offensive line because they ran the football atrociously last season. The Bolts could be borrowing the running scheme of the San Francisco 49ers, which is to feed the hot hand and have different blocking schemes to throw off the defense and open running holes.
Lock: Austin Ekeler, Larry Rountree III, Joshua Kelley
On the bubble: Justin Jackson, Darius Bradwell
Starter: Last season was the first time Austin Ekeler was the starter at running back. In the first three games of the season, he had over 300 yards of total offense until he sustained an injury that put him out for six games. He finished the season but the way he had hoped. Ekeler has said multiple times that he doesn’t have to be the pro-typical bell-cow back that touches the ball over 30 times. He is okay with a healthy rotation and moving around to different spots on the field. Lombardi should consider using Ekeler how former Bolts offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt used him in 2018 when they made the playoffs, which was moving pre-snap or out at receiver to take advantage of mismatches. Regardless of how they use him, expect a big season from the rock n’ roll celebrating back this season.
Backups: After Ekeler, there is a bit of a mess. Joshua Kelley was drafted in the fourth round last season and seemed like he would be back two until he got a little bit careless with the football. He rarely played towards the end of the season, but he could regain his mojo with a new coaching staff. Justin Jackson is a former seventh-round pick that showed out his rookie season and has all the talent but can’t seem to stay healthy. He has struggled to stay healthy the last two seasons. He will need to come out with a strong preseason and camp to make this crowded backfield.
Larry Rountree III was drafted in the sixth round this season, so that is why he is a lock to make the squad unless he has a terrible preseason, but he is a talented back. He is a little bigger and could do different things that Ekeler, Kelley, and Jackson can’t, so he could help change the tempo of the game. He may need to play special teams as well. Finally, “Big Boy” Darius Bradwell is a bigger back who caught a lot of people’s attention last season on HBO’s Hard Knocks. He gained some weight quickly between the break of minicamp and training camp. Former head coach Anthony Lynn worked hard with him and helped him drop most of the weight. If he has a strong camp, he could make some noise to make the roster, but if not in LA somewhere else. He is at the bottom of the pyramid, so he will need to work hard and outshine others to hope to make the 53-man roster.