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Melvin Gordon insurance: Justin Jackson adds ‘razzle-dazzle’ to Bolts – Los Angeles Chargers Blog

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COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson darted down the sideline on a wheel route, accelerated past linebacker Cory Littleton and hauled in a pass from Philip Rivers for a score during a recent joint practice between the Bolts and Los Angeles Rams

The explosive play was a good example of Jackson’s shiftiness and accelerated development in his second season with the team.

“He’s a creative runner,” backfield mate Austin Ekeler said. “He’s a unique runner. There aren’t many people I’ve seen, in general, that run like he does. Like I tell him, he’s got that razzle-dazzle, some hocus-pocus [laughs] — I make up all these different things. That’s how he runs, and that’s how I’d describe his runs because you really don’t know what he’s going to do.”

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said Jackson is part of his team’s emergency plan if holdout Melvin Gordon doesn’t show up for the start of the regular season.

Gordon is in the final year of a rookie contract that is scheduled to pay him $5.6 million, but he wants a new deal that puts him among the highest-paid running backs in the league. With no new deal at this point, Gordon through his representation demanded a trade, but the Chargers are unwilling to move him — for now.

Telesco will get a look at his team’s alternatives during the Bolts’ first preseason game on the road against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday.

At the center of Chargers’ plan to replace Gordon is Jackson, a seventh-round selection in the 2018 draft out of Northwestern with a productive history.

Jackson ran for more than 1,000 yards four straight seasons for the Wildcats, and he finished as Northwestern’s all-time leader in rushing yards (5,440), rushing touchdowns (41), all-purpose yards (6,298) and total touchdowns (42). He also holds the career rushing record (6,531 yards) at Glenbard North High in Carole Stream, Illinois.

“It’s been good,” Jackson said about his second NFL training camp. “I’ve just kind of honed in and focused up. I’m taking advantage of every single rep.

“I feel like I have a lot of room to grow. This is what training camp is for, really getting your body and mind prepared for a grueling season, but also to earn the trust of your coaches and your teammates, go out there and have fun and just ball out.”

Jackson went on to say he’s playing faster — a product of the work he put in this offseason, knowing the playbook, understanding his reads and what the defense is trying to do to him before the ball is snapped.

A former NFL running back, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn likes Jackson’s instincts, and will give him first crack to help fill the void left by Gordon.

“When you study Justin, he’s been productive his whole life,” Lynn said. “He’s never really had the height, weight, speed thing going for him, but if you look at his production — it’s there. High school, college and when I believe his NFL career is over, that it’ll be there as well.”

Jackson said he likes the fact that Lynn keeps a watchful eye on his position group.

“He’s in the meeting room — he’s everywhere,” Jackson said, laughing. “It helps. It gives us a different view on certain things, and he has his little nuggets of wisdom on certain things that he always gives us.

“But also the more he’s around you, the more he gets to know you. The more he is watching you, the more you have a chance to impress. It’s having a guy’s voice there that’s been there and done it.”

Jackson had to fight to make the team as a rookie last season, missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury. He spent the first month of the regular season on the practice squad, and was signed to the active roster in Week 4.

Late in the season, however, with Gordon nursing a knee injury, Jackson had a breakout performance in a come-from-behind, 33-30 win on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He totaled 63 yards on eight carries, including an 18-yard touchdown run for a score in the second half of that game, and also recorded a 19-yard reception.

Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt praised Jackson’s work ethic, vision and production last season when Gordon was hurt.

“His work in the offseason has shown he’s a legitimate guy,” Whisenhunt said. “He works hard at it. He’s very smart. He’s got this field vision that is unique for him. He sees a lot, and knows what’s going on out there.”

Even though he is not here, Jackson said he has stayed in touch with Gordon.

“He has talked to us all separately, talked to us before camp,” Jackson said. “Obviously, he has to do what he has to do. We’re holding it down until he gets back, but we all love him. He’s a part of this room — he knows that and we all know that. We’ll interact with him on social media too. He’s always keeping it light, keeping it funny.

“That’s just the type of guy he is. He’s a great leader. We are just waiting for him to get back, but until then we’re all just trying to carve out a piece of where we might fit into this offense.”



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Rams’ Todd Gurley stiff-arms QB Jared Goff’s compliment

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Last week, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley let his head coach shoulder the blame. This week, it’s his quarterback who intended to deliver a compliment, but perhaps didn’t find the right words.

“Sounds like I suck and then I made a good play,” Gurley said, straight faced with a shrug. “So, yeah, I guess so.”

Gurley, who has seen his workload increase in three of the Rams’ last four games, was referring to a stiff-arm touchdown run in which he battled Seattle cornerback Tre Flowers in a 28-12 victory over the Seahawks that caught the attention of quarterback Jared Goff.

So much so, that Goff stood at the podium after the win and lit up when asked about it. “He’s a bad dude,” Goff said. “It was vintage Todd.”

Vintage? Gurley didn’t think so … and made it known Thursday.

Against the Seahawks, Gurley rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and caught four passes for 34 yards. And that stiff arm? Nothing special. “Not my first time stiff arming nobody,” Gurley said. “Just a regular stiff arm.”

The Rams are 8-5 and chasing the Minnesota Vikings for the final wild card berth. On Sunday, they play the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (6-7) at AT&T Stadium.

Gurley has played an increased role in the offense and indications point to the trend continuing Sunday.

“The approach for us is that Todd is a big-time player,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He’s shown that he’s feeling good and when he’s doing those kind of things — whether it be through the pass game, through the run game — good things seem to happen for the Rams.”

After averaging 14.9 touches per game through the first 10 weeks, Gurley’s touches have increased to an average of 21 over the last four games.

When asked Thursday how he felt at this point of the season, compared to last season, Gurley responded, “It’s Week 15 in the league, ain’t nobody feeling rested. It’s Week 15, no one in this league is feeling well rested.”

Gurley had a season-best 28 touches in a Week 11 win over the Chicago Bears. In a Week 13 blowout over the Arizona Cardinals, he had 20 touches and last Sunday when the Rams defeated the Seahawks, he had 27.

McVay recently shouldered the blame for not giving Gurley more opportunity early in the season.

“Me not being an idiot,” McVay said last week, when asked what caused him to get the ball to Gurley more.

Gurley offered no alternative to McVay’s explanation.

“He said it, I didn’t,” Gurley said, chuckling. “That’s all I got to say. I don’t have anything else to say.”

The Rams offense has appeared to benefit from Gurley’s increased production, as Goff broke a month-long touchdown drought to pass for four touchdowns in the last two games.

Gurley was asked Thursday if the offense and other teammates benefitted when he was in rhythm.

“I feel like we all feed off of each other. I don’t really have to explain too much, you see the results over the last couple of years,” said Gurley, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of the last two seasons, as the Rams won back-to-back division titles and last season advanced to Super Bowl LIII. “When we’re running the ball, stuff is going well, stuff is opening up – so it’s like, it’s not too much really to explain, just got to go out there and do it, whether it’s in the passing game or the running game.”

Gurley has rushed for 721 yards and nine touchdowns on 177 carries in 12 games this season. He also has caught 26 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown.

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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson breaks Michael Vick’s single-season rushing yards record

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BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson set the most impressive record of his young NFL career on Thursday night, breaking Michael Vick’s single-season rushing mark by a quarterback.

Jackson, the electric dual-threat quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player front-runner, eclipsed his childhood idol in the first quarter against the heavy underdog New York Jets on a chilly night at M&T Bank Stadium. He entered the game needing 23 yards to eclipse Vick’s mark of 1,039, set in 2006, and gained 27 on Baltimore’s opening drive, breaking the record on a 5-yard run that preceded a 6-yard touchdown by Mark Ingram to put the Ravens up 7-0.

After the score, the Fox broadcast cut to a taped segment of Vick congratulating Jackson.

“Lamar, I just want to say congratulations on making history,” Vick said. “One of many milestones that you will surpass in your career. Best of luck in everything that you do. You deserve it. Keep up the hard work, and I’ll always be rooting for you.”

With the way Jackson has run the ball this season — from his spinning around two defenders on a touchdown run in Cincinnati to juking defenders off their feet on a weekly basis — it had long been anticipated that Jackson would shatter Vick’s record. Jackson recently said it would be “an honor” to surpass Vick, reiterating that the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback is his favorite player.

Just like many of his elusive runs, Jackson established the new standard for rushing quarterbacks in staggering style, doing so in his 14th game of the 2019 season (which includes not playing a full fourth quarter in four games). He entered Thursday’s game as the leading rusher for the NFL’s No. 1 ground attack and on pace to rush for 1,251 yards rushing this season.

Jackson, 22, broke the record despite not being at full strength. He was limited in a couple of practices this week and was listed as questionable after injuring his quadriceps five days earlier in a 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

What makes Jackson’s achievement even more special is that no one previously got close to Vick’s record, which stood for 13 years. Before Jackson began sprinting past tacklers, the most rushing yards by a quarterback since 2006 came from Russell Wilson, who ran for 849 yards in 2014 — which were 190 yards shy of Vick. Last month, Vick acknowledged that he didn’t think his record would ever get broken.

Jackson and Vick are the only quarterbacks to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season, but they reached that milestone in different ways. Vick’s rushing yards were a near-even split between designed runs (52%) and scrambles (48%), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. With Jackson, 65% of his rushing total is off designed runs, most of which come on zone reads.

Jackson has repeatedly downplayed any individual milestones, saying his focus is on winning. But Jackson’s running has been a major key to Baltimore’s success. When Jackson has run for at least 70 yards, the Ravens are 12-0 (entering Thursday’s game).

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Pat McAfee likes what he sees every week from the Ravens and thinks Lamar Jackson deserves to be crowned MVP right now.

What sets Jackson apart from Vick is his ability to beat teams with his arm as well. In Vick’s record-setting season, he threw for 2,474 yards and 20 touchdowns (75.7 passer rating). Through 13 games, Jackson had already surpassed those numbers, passing for 2,677 yards and 28 touchdowns (109.2 rating). He could become the first quarterback in NFL history to finish a season with 1,000 yards rushing and a passer rating over 100.

This isn’t the first time Jackson passed a mark of Vick’s. On Dec. 1, against the San Francisco 49ers, Jackson recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, breaking a single-season record Vick shared. Last month, Jackson became the fastest quarterback ever in the Madden video-game franchise, with a 96 speed rating, moving him past Vick (who had a 95 speed rating).

Jackson’s popularity has exploded in his first full season as an NFL starting quarterback. He is the current favorite to win NFL MVP with 9-to-1 odds at Caesars Sportsbook. He tops all players in Pro Bowl balloting. He also watched one of his autographed No. 8 jerseys get presented to Pope Francis a couple of weeks ago.

Jackson has led the Ravens to the best start in franchise history. Baltimore (11-2), which entered Thursday as the AFC’s top seed, can clinch its second consecutive AFC North title with a win over the Jets.

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I know Odell Beckham Jr. wants to be here

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BEREA, Ohio – Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry said Thursday that teammate Odell Beckham Jr. wants to stay in Cleveland, despite reports and speculation that OBJ is looking for a way out.

“I think he wants to be here,” Landry said. “I know he wants to be here.”

Sunday morning, Fox Sports reported during its NFL pregame show that Beckham has been telling opposing players and coaches before games, “come get me” out of Cleveland.

Beckham, who declined comment on the report after Cleveland’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals, had fueled speculation days earlier when he was vague about his future with the Browns beyond the 2019 season.

“No one knows what the future holds, like tomorrow,” Beckham said then, when asked whether he wanted to be in Cleveland next year. “I couldn’t tell you what’s going to happen.”

Landry, one of Beckham’s closest friends dating back to when the two played together at LSU, was more definitive, even joking that he would “beat his a–” if Beckham were confiding in other people and not him.

“He doesn’t want to leave, and he’s not trying to leave,” Landry said.

Beckham has gone seven consecutive games without topping 100 receiving yards, the longest such streak of his career. He has also been playing through a hip and groin injury, which has hampered how much he can practice during the week and has limited his explosiveness in games.

“It’s not even about trying to go somewhere else,” Landry said. “I think for him, he’s been a leader, he’s a guy that comes to work every day, he’s a guy that’s playing through injuries, all the things you want out of a player. Inside of this organization, he has a voice, he has responsibility to himself, to all of us, to go out there and compete each and every Sunday, and he does that.”

Beckham has only two touchdowns, as he and quarterback Baker Mayfield have struggled to find a consistent connection in their first year together. Mayfield defended Beckham after Sunday’s game, saying that the injury “wasn’t handled right” by the team’s training staff (Mayfield later apologized and said he didn’t intend “to throw our medical staff under the bus”).

Wednesday, Mayfield was also asked whether he thinks Beckham wants to be in Cleveland long term.

“I can’t answer that for him,” Mayfield said. “I mean, there’s all the rumors going around. But I have my conversations with him and I know what we talk about, so I trust him wholeheartedly.”

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