Joshua Kelley

Los Angeles Chargers
Running Back #27
Los Angeles Chargers
Running Back #27
Photo: Icon Sportswire

Joshua Kelley News

Roster spot not guaranteed

Kelley could be competing for the final running back spot with 2020 sixth-round pick Larry Rountree, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: The presumed hierarchy according to Popper would see Austin Ekeler handle most of the work out of the backfield with Justin Jackson set to fill in occasionally as a change-of-pace option. That would leave Kelley and Rountree in an ultra-utility capacity, but the recent sixth-round pick profiles a bit better as a goal-line threat, something the Chargers seemingly lack at the moment. Kelley was a major factor to begin his rookie season but dramatically tailed off towards the end of the year finishing as a healthy scratch in two of the final four games. Considering Rountree also has experience playing special teams throughout college, it's entirely possible Kelley may be on the outside looking in when it comes to the running-back depth chart.

May 21, 2021 10:32 AM EST

Uneven rookie season

Kelley, who was a healthy scratch in two of the final four games, finished his rookie season with 502 total yards and two touchdowns in 11 games.

Analysis: Kelley's fall from fantasy grace came precipitously as the 23-year-old saw 47 touches in his first three games as a complement to Austin Ekeler before yielding time to Justin Jackson and then Kalen Ballage as the season progressed. By the time Ekeler (quad) returned from his multi-month absence, Kelley had completely fallen out of the rotation in favor of Ballage despite the two having nearly indistinguishably bad yards-per-carry averages. The UCLA product might have more life now that the Chargers opted to move on from head coach Anthony Lynn, but the decision might be a double-edged sword as the offensive philosophy force fed snaps to each of the aforementioned names despite poor performances from most of the backs spelling Ekeler. The Chargers have the most invested in Kelley compared to Jackson and Ballage would should at least guarantee him a spot on the active roster next season. But without a more defined offensive approach for 2021, it's hard to guess if the 2020 fourth-round pick will be a depth piece like he was towards the end of his rookie season, or a crucial factor in the rotation like he was to start his career.

Jan 7, 2021 9:01 AM EST

Deemed healthy Week 16 scratch

Kelly (coach's decision) is inactive heading into Sunday's game against the Broncos, Gilbert Manzano of The Orange County Register reports.

Analysis: Los Angeles will roll with Kalen Ballage and Justin Jackson as secondary backs behind Austin Ekeler during a Week 16 AFC West clash. Kelley's 3.2 yards-per-carry average is uninspiring, while his two lost fumbles on the season motivate the Chargers' coaching staff to search elsewhere for more reliable options.

Dec 27, 2020 11:48 AM EST

Five offensive snaps in win

Kelley carried the ball two times for eight yards in Thursday's 30-27 win over the Raiders.

Analysis: Kelley did next to nothing in this contest largely as a byproduct of just five offensive snaps. The return of Austin Ekeler and emergence of Kalen Ballage has made the rookie running back simply an afterthought, and it's hard to imagine that changing with just two games left to play especially considering Kelley was a healthy inactive just one game prior.

Dec 18, 2020 8:36 AM EST

Back in lineup

Kelley is active for Thursday's game against the Raiders, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: Kelley was a healthy scratch for last week's win over the Falcons, but he'll return to the lineup for Week 15, taking the place of Justin Jackson. When Jackson suited up last week, he saw just two carries for eight yards, so it's unclear what sort of role Kelley will have in the offense. He'll join Austin Ekeler and Kalen Ballage as healthy running backs for the divisional clash.

Dec 17, 2020 4:07 PM EST

Inactive Week 14

Kelly (coach's decision) is inactive for Sunday's game against the Falcons.

Analysis: Kelley avoided an injury designation for Sunday's contest after dealing with a foot issue, but he'll instead be sitting out as a healthy scratch. Austin Ekeler will lead the backfield while Kalen Ballage and Justin Jackson serve as the backup options.

Dec 13, 2020 12:17 PM EST

Ready for Week 14

Kelley (foot) has been cleared to play in Sunday's game versus the Falcons.

Analysis: Kelley started the week as a non-participant, upgraded to limited status Thursday and practiced at full speed to close out the week. The rookie has been cleared to play in Week 14. His role is yet to be determined, as Kelley, Austin Ekeler and Kalen Ballage haven't all stayed healthy for an entire game this season. Kelley and Ballage are fighting for the No. 2 role for the remainder of the year.

Dec 11, 2020 3:33 PM EST

Status takes positive turn

Kelley (foot) was a limited participant during Thursday's practice session.

Analysis: The UCLA product was unable to participate in any capacity Wednesday, having been forced to exit Sunday's 45-0 loss to the Patriots after three offensive snaps. The injury-induced departure naturally led to a dip from Kelley's average of 26.2 offensive snaps per game, as he managed just two catches for three yards in the contest. He's now trending in the right direction, however, as L.A. prepares to host the Falcons' 12th-ranked rush defense Sunday afternoon.

Dec 10, 2020 3:36 PM EST

Unable to practice Wednesday

Kelley (foot) didn't participate in Wednesday's practice.

Analysis: Kelley was forced out of this past Sunday's loss to the Patriots with an ankle injury, but the team clarified that he's dealing with a foot issue. His absence from practice to start the week is a discouraging sign ahead of Sunday's game versus the Falcons. Kelley has two more practices to elevate his practice capacity to have a shot at playing this week. Troymaine Pope (neck) was also limited Wednesday, and he will serve as the No. 3 back if Kelley is inactive.

Dec 9, 2020 4:36 PM EST

Hurts ankle against Pats

Kelley (ankle) is questionable to return to Sunday's game against the Patriots.

Analysis: Kelley's injury occurred with Los Angeles getting blown out in the fourth quarter. He had two catches for three yards and no carries prior to getting injured while working in a third-string role behind Austin Ekeler and Kalen Ballage.

Dec 6, 2020 4:14 PM EST

Touchdown overshadowed in loss

Kelley carried the ball seven times for 35 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Bills.

Analysis: Kelley scored his first touchdown since Week 1 and also saw his first game with more than 32 rushing yards since Week 3, yet he was completely overshadowed by the return of Austin Ekeler (hamstring) who immediately emerged as the team's primary option at running back and registered 129 total yards. It'll be interesting to see if Kelley or Kalen Ballage, who didn't play Sunday thanks to a ankle/calf injury, end up handling Ekeler's leftovers moving forward. The Chargers square off against a stout Patriots run defense in Week 13.

Nov 29, 2020 2:57 PM EST

Season-low in snaps

Kelley ran four times and lost two yards in Sunday's 34-28 win against the Jets. He also caught both of his targets for four yards.

Analysis: It's clear Kelley has been surpassed on the depth chart by Kalen Ballage (55 snaps Sunday), but crucially the rookie is not expected to operate as the between-the-tackles ball carrier with the expected return of Austin Ekeler (knee/hamstring). The season-low 11 snaps also put him behind scatback Troymaine Pope (16) although the latter likely reverts to a special teams ace once Ekeler is inevitably able to take the field. The 23-year-old hardly figures to be an attractive fantasy asset so long as Ballege remains healthy.

Nov 24, 2020 8:43 AM EST

Playing time sapped away

Kelley carried the ball seven times for 21 yards in the 29-21 loss Sunday to the Dolphins.

Analysis: After seeing a season high in snaps last week, Kelley completely fell to the wayside in favor of Kalen Ballage. At this point, it's clear the Chargers are trying to pivot away from giving meaningful opportunities to the rookie running back which makes sense considering Kelley is averaging just 3.2 yards-per-carry across nearly 100 attempts this year. With the imminent return of Austin Ekeler (hamstring), it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Ballage replace Kelley as the between-the-tackles back, essentially rendering the 22-year-old tough to roster in most fantasy formats.

Nov 17, 2020 7:34 AM EST

Leads backfield in snaps

Kelley carried the ball nine times for 28 yards during Sunday's 31-26 loss to the Raiders. He also caught all five of his targets for 31 yards.

Analysis: Even with the Chargers offense missing two of their essential players, Justin Jackson (knee) and Austin Ekler (hamstring), Kelley did not put up the numbers that some would have expected. While Kelley was unsuccessful in making it to the end zone, he did have the highest number of snaps (43) among running backs and tied for his season-high in snaps as well. Still, it wasn't enough to surpass Saturday's practice-squad callup, Kalen Ballage, who dramatically took advantage of the opportunities vacated by Jackson's injury to the tune of 84 total yards and a team-high 15 carries in the loss. It's clear Kelley has a defined role within the rushing attack although the rookie is essentially locked into a second-fiddle role to whoever is healthy among the group of Austin Ekeler (hamstring), Jackson, Troymaine Pope (concussion) and now Ballage. There's likely too much uncertainty regarding the Chargers' injured backs to know who will be the leading rusher next Sunday, but it's becoming clear Kelley won't be the answer.

Nov 10, 2020 8:41 AM EST

Effort critiqued by head coach

Coach Anthony Lynn said Wednesday that Kelley has been "running timid lately," Gilbert Manzano of The Orange County Register reports.

Analysis: Kelley appears to be working behind both Justin Jackson and Troymaine Pope (concussion) in Los Angeles' backfield at this point. Jackson had 17 carries versus the Broncos on Sunday while Pope logged 10, compared to Kelley's seven rushes for 32 yards. Nor was the rookie fourth-round pick effective in his opportunities, as aside from an early 22-yard gain he was held to 10 yards on six carries, in addition to a loss of seven yards on his only catch. Lynn noted that he remains confident Kelley will "turn it around," but the rookie will need to improve his per-touch efficiency before fantasy managers are able to rely on him with much confidence.

Nov 4, 2020 11:45 AM EST

Limited role in offense

Kelley carried the ball seven times for 32 yards in Week 8 against the Broncos. He added one reception for -7 yards.

Analysis: Kelley finished with the fewest carries out of a trio of backs for the Chargers that also included Justin Jackson and Troymaine Pope. He did manage a 22-yard gain on the team's third drive of the game, attacking behind the left side of the offensive line. Kelley was otherwise held in check, managing only 10 yards on his six other carries combined. Though Austin Ekeler (hamstring) isn't on the verge of a return, Jackson has been overtaken Kelley in terms of efficiency across the past few weeks.

Nov 1, 2020 9:31 PM EST

Finds little running room in win

Kelley rushed 12 times for 29 yards and caught all five of his targets for 24 yards in Sunday's 39-29 win over the Jaguars.

Analysis: Kelley out-touched Justin Jackson 17-10, but neither running back contributed much in the high-scoring affair. It's encouraging to see the rookie wrestle back the majority of the workload after Jackson posted 94 scrimmage yards to Kelley's 38 last week, but Kelley's averaging just 3.1 yards per carry on 75 totes through his first six games. Kelley will look to improve that efficiency at home against the Broncos in Week 8, while Jackson should continue to be his primary competition for playing time with Austin Ekeler (hamstring) still on IR.

Oct 25, 2020 5:02 PM EST

Meager showing versus Saints

Kelley rushed 11 times for 29 yards and caught his lone target for nine yards in Monday night's 30-27 overtime loss to the Saints.

Analysis: Kelley was bottled up against a consistently stout Saints rush defense. In contrast, fellow tailback Justin Jackson rushed 15 times for 71 yards, but 36 of those came on one play. While that evidences the tough sledding on average Monday, Jackson's comparatively hot hand enabled him to get involved more in the passing game as well, finishing with five catches for 23 yards. As long as usual starter Austin Ekeler (hamstring) is sidelined, the production split between Kelley and Jackson will be worthwhile to monitor. After a decent start to the season, the rookie Kelley has tailed off due to a combination of fumbles and hard matchups lately. While those struggles along with Jackson's performance Monday leave him on the slide, Week 6's matchup against the Jets could be just what Kelley needs to get going again.

Oct 12, 2020 9:40 PM EST

Could see playing-time bump

Kelley could see more opportunities after it was announced Austin Ekeler (hamstring) could miss the next 4-to-6 weeks, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Analysis: Kelley wasn't particularly impressive Sunday, as he carried the ball nine times for seven yards while also gaffing up an egregious fumble towards the end of the first half which allowed the Buccaneers to gain critical momentum in the eventual come-from-behind win. While it was Kelley's second fumble in as many weeks, it didn't seem as if coach Anthony Lynn lost much confidence in the rookie as Kelley eventually saw a season-high 57 percent of the offensive snaps. Consider this backfield a 1A/1B situation with Justin Jackson factoring in much in the same way Austin Ekeler did when Melvin Gordon was the lead tailback. Both Jackson and Kelley have proven to be resource pass-catchers out of the backfield, so whoever gets the majority of the work might simply boil down to who has the hotter hand each week. With three straight matchups against bottom-tier run defenses like the Saints, Jets and Dolphins, both Kelley and Jackson might be relevant fantasy options even in shallower formats.

Oct 7, 2020 7:07 AM EST

Can't find running room in loss

Kelley rushed nine times for seven yards and brought in all three targets for 26 yards in the Chargers' 38-31 loss to the Buccaneers.

Analysis: The rookie fourth-round pick had an opportunity to assume control of the backfield after Austin Ekeler exited the game for good in the first quarter due to a hamstring injury, but Kelley found the sledding to be extremely rough versus the Buccaneers' typically stalwart front seven. Kelley did appear to soak up some of Ekeler's usual passing game work by logging a modest but nevertheless season-high three targets, and he could be in line for a heavy workload in a Week 5 Monday night road matchup versus the Saints if Ekeler remains sidelined.

Oct 4, 2020 2:42 PM EST

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