Bolts running back Justin Jackson is generating a ton of preseason buzz heading into the 2020 season, and rightfully so. However, it’s still a bit surprising. Jackson has just two injury-plagued seasons under his belt but it hasn’t stopped him from making eye-popping plays when he’s on the field during those limited reps.
Just last week, Jackson, along with second-year linebacker Drue Tranquill, was named to a Football Outsiders list of the top-25 breakout players for 2020. Today, he’s being included on another list. This time around, Jackson has been named as the Chargers’ “secret weapon,” according to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox.
“The Los Angeles Chargers parted with running back Melvin Gordon III this offseason, which will open the door for Austin Ekeler,” says Knox. “However, the Chargers like to utilize a committee backfield, and the potential contributions of backup Justin Jackson shouldn’t be overlooked.”
“When given opportunities, Jackson has produced at a high level. He has averaged 5.1 yards per carry as a pro and put up a whopping 6.9 yards per rush last season. As head coach Anthony Lynn pointed out, though, Jackson has been held back by injuries.”
When Jackson’s robust yards per carry gets mentioned, I always have to follow it up with the fact that he had some big runs negated by holding calls early on in the year. The biggest play he ripped off was a 60-yard touchdown run against the Lions. If that would have stood, his 6.9 YPC would have skyrocketed to 8.6.
“Jackson has shown that he can play, he can move the chains, but Justin Jackson has got to stay on the football field,” Lynn said, per ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry.”
“If he does, Jackson can be the sort of ground complement to Ekeler needed to propel the Chargers rushing attack toward the ranks of the elite.”
Big ol’ retweet on that.
For the sake of comparisons, when Anthony Lynn was still in Buffalo, the Bills trotted out the No. 1 ground attack in the NFL with Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy. However, most people forget that backup Mike Gillislee played a huge role during those years as well. Gillislee averaged a phenomenal 5.7 YPC across his two seasons (‘15-’16) on 148 carries while scoring 11 touchdowns.
That’s why I think Jackson — or rookie Joshua Kelley — will play huge roles this year for the Chargers. Lynn knows how invigorating it can be for an offense when a backup player comes in and makes plays from the jump. It’s a shot of pure morale straight to the arm for the players.
JUSTIN JACKSON THE BALL CARRIER pic.twitter.com/MhM94IZflK— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) December 14, 2018
In terms of his injury history since being drafted, I’m holding out hope that it’s just an unfortunate series of events in the same manner as Keenan Allen injuries across those back-to-back seasons. After he looked cursed with bad luck, he has gone on to not miss a game in the past three seasons while being one of the most-consistent pass-catchers in the entire league.
While Jackson likely won’t go on to superstardom as long as he’s splitting time with Austin Ekeler, he has all the ability in the world to make a name for himself in L.A.
Here’s to a big 2020 for JJ.