NFL Football

Chargers' Ekeler, Jackson making most of opportunities

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

By JOE REEDY

AP Sports Writer

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) As Melvin Gordon continues his holdout from the Los Angeles Chargers' training camp, Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler are showing why they should be in the mix to get more carries this season.

Both running backs have made a strong impression on coaches during the three weeks of practices as well as last Thursday's preseason opener against Arizona.

They will figure prominently as Los Angeles hosts New Orleans for joint workouts Thursday and Friday and then a game Sunday.

"I mean, even if he was here, we have the same mentality," Ekeler said. "If he's here, we still have to move forward. If he's not here, we still have to move forward."

Ekeler ran for 40 yards on five carries during the Arizona game. Jackson gained 22 yards on five carries, scoring from four yards out on the Chargers' second drive.

"They've done a good job of taking advantage of their opportunities," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "I thought that they ran strong (last Thursday), made good decisions on their cuts and did a good job in protection. It was very nice to see the way they played."

Ekeler's role continues to expand as he enters his third season. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ekeler has emerged as a shifty change-of-pace back who is dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield. He is the first undrafted player in franchise history to have a rushing and receiving TD in each of his first two years.

Ekeler's six receiving touchdowns also make him the first undrafted running back with five or more in his first two years since Dallas' Dan Reeves in 1966.

Ekeler said he is still receiving the same amount of reps that he would get if Gordon was on the field. He said the biggest difference is that he is getting more with the first team.

Jackson was a seventh-round pick last year but missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. He started the season on the practice squad before being called up to the active roster before Week 4.

When Gordon was out for four games with a knee injury, Jackson ended up getting his opportunity. He had an 18-yard touchdown at Pittsburgh and gained 58 yards with a TD in a start at Kansas City.

The 6-0, 199-pound Jackson showed how much growth he's had during the offseason on his touchdown against Arizona. He was able to lower his shoulders and powered through for the score.

Running backs coach Alfredo Roberts said that run showed the game isn't too big for him.

"We're both trying to carve out our space in this offense, especially with Melvin not being here," said Jackson. "We're trying to step up and work off each other. You have to plan for Austin's speed and my change of direction."

There aren't any signs that Gordon will end his holdout soon. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and is slated to earn $5.6 million this season. Gordon has gained over 1,200 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 or more touchdowns in three straight seasons.

Whisenhunt said he wouldn't be concerned if Jackson and Ekeler were his starting backfield if Gordon doesn't report in time for the Sept. 8 opener against Indianapolis. Whisenhunt also didn't want to say whether Gordon could report the week of the opener and be ready go.

"I don't know that scenario. Like I said, we miss Melvin," he said. "I think Melvin's a hell of a football player, but we're working with the guys that are here and they're doing a nice job."

---

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Updated August 14, 2019

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2019 by STATS.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.

Teams Score Time
NCAA MBB
Alcorn State   7:00pm
North Carolina State  
NHL
Hurricanes   8:30pm
Blackhawks  
Teams Score Time
Charleston Southern 46 F
Michigan State 94
Monmouth 50 F
Pittsburgh 63
Presbyterian 53 F
Notre Dame 63
Utah Valley 74 F
Kentucky 82
Colgate 62 F
Auburn 91
Stetson 51 F
Ohio State 86
UC Irvine 53 F
Colorado 69
UTSA 50 F
Utah State 82
Alcorn State   7:00pm
North Carolina State  
Vermont   7:00pm
Virginia  
East Tennessee State   8:00pm
Kansas  
Fairfield   8:30pm
Maryland  
UT Arlington   9:00pm
Gonzaga  
Maine   11:00pm
Washington  
Teams Score Time
Cavaliers 105 F
Knicks 123
Hornets 96 F
Raptors 132
Pacers 115 F
Nets 86
Bucks 115 F
Bulls 101
Trail Blazers 108 F
Rockets 132
Spurs 110 F
Mavericks 117
Celtics 99 F
Suns 85
Timberwolves 112 F
Jazz 102
Thunder 88 F
Clippers 90
Warriors   8:00pm
Grizzlies  
Trail Blazers   8:00pm
Pelicans  
Suns   10:00pm
Kings  
Thunder   10:30pm
Lakers  
Teams Score Time
Chiefs 24 F
Chargers 17
Teams Score Time
Ducks 2 F
Capitals 5
Kings 0 F
Coyotes 3
Bruins   7:00pm
Devils  
Wild   7:00pm
Sabres  
Canadiens   7:00pm
Blue Jackets  
Islanders   7:00pm
Penguins  
Flyers   7:00pm
Panthers  
Senators   7:30pm
Red Wings  
Lightning   8:00pm
Blues  
Jets   8:00pm
Predators  
Hurricanes   8:30pm
Blackhawks  
Canucks   8:30pm
Stars  
Avalanche   9:00pm
Flames  
Maple Leafs   10:00pm
Golden Knights  
Oilers   10:30pm
Sharks  
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES AT MIAMI
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 18 Kyle Busch 4
2 19 Martin Truex Jr 3
3 20 Erik Jones 16
4 4 Kevin Harvick 2
5 22 Joey Logano 5
6 14 Clint Bowyer 10
7 6 Ryan Newman 15
8 3 Austin Dillon 22
9 88 Alex Bowman 12
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES AT MIAMI
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 2 Tyler Reddick 1
2 00 Cole Custer 2
3 98 Chase Briscoe 5
4 9 Noah Gragson 10
5 20 Christopher Bell 7
6 36 John Hunter Nemechek 6
7 22 Austin Cindric 3
8 19 Brandon Jones 4
9 8 Jeb Burton 18
FORD ECOBOOST 200
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 16 Austin Hill 5
2 88 Matt Crafton 9
3 51 Christian Eckes 2
4 45 Ross Chastain 3
5 24 Brett Moffitt 4
6 13 Johnny Sauter 6
7 98 Grant Enfinger 7
8 4 Todd Gilliland 11
9 2 Sheldon Creed 12