Bulked-up Joshua Kelley in working for Chargers’ No. 2 again

Since he was drafted, the Chargers modified their teaching workers and invested picks in two extra working backs.

His three best video games stay the primary three of his NFL profession, again in 2020.

Now getting into his third season and dealing with as a lot competitors and uncertainty as he ever has, Joshua Kelley arrived at coaching camp in Costa Mesa a modified man.

“My whole goal this offseason was to become the best football player I could possibly be,” he mentioned Thursday. “It wasn’t to relax, to wind down, to do all sorts of business activities, vacation. It was to become the best player I could be for this year.”

Popping out of UCLA, Kelley’s future seemed to be on rapid show below the earlier teaching regime of Anthony Lynn.

He carried 43 instances for 167 yards by way of the primary three weeks of the 2020 season, serving as a much-needed counterpunch to starter Austin Ekeler.

However Kelley misplaced fumbles in back-to-back video games — each losses, in opposition to Carolina and Tampa Bay — and has been making an attempt to get well since.

He mentioned he devoted himself this spring to enhancing bodily, enlisting the assistance of Time beyond regulation Athletes, a coaching outfit in Florida advisable by former Chargers teammate Rayshawn Jenkins.

“I evaluated myself,” Kelley mentioned. “I looked at my strengths and weaknesses, and I felt like I could put on some more muscle, add some more explosiveness. I took the program I had seriously and just attacked it.”

Brandon Staley, who took over after Lynn was fired following the 2020 season, mentioned Kelley is “much stronger, much more compact” on this coaching camp. He praised Kelley for being “a more complete back.”

Within the Chargers’ preseason opener Saturday at SoFi Stadium in opposition to the Rams, Kelley can have a possibility to showcase his new self as he battles for the No. 2 working again spot.

He’ll be competing in opposition to Isaiah Spiller, a fourth-round decide this yr, and Larry Rountree III, a sixth-round decide in 2021.

Rookie Isaiah Spiller (28) is the most recent working again drafted who’s making an attempt to win the No. 2 job.

(Alex Gallardo / Related Press)

“These backs … I really like the progress of all of them,” Staley mentioned. “I think the competition is bringing out the best in them because it’s a real competition.”

Together with energy coaching, Kelley mentioned his offseason program emphasised vitamin. He’s nonetheless listed at 5-foot-11, 212 kilos — similar as final yr — however Kelley does seem like extra stout.

“Nutrition was huge,” he mentioned. “You don’t get this size and this strong without being on top of your nutrition and your recovery. So, yeah, it was a lot of work.”

Kelley defined that he now looks like a distinct participant on the sphere. He has damaged a number of spectacular runs in group drills, although the Chargers don’t sort out to the bottom in coaching camp.

“I’m just like — boom! — more explosive, faster, stronger,” Kelley mentioned. “It’s a big difference. There’s a correlation between the weight room [to] nutrition to the field. It feels good. They got me right.”

Staley additionally famous that Kelley has gained the belief of his teammates in cross safety, a significant element to an offense that incorporates a Professional Bowl quarterback in Justin Herbert.

For younger working backs, cross safety typically is without doubt one of the most troublesome steps in transitioning to the NFL. Kelley mentioned that early on he needed to focus merely on who to dam.

He defined that, now with a better understanding of the offense and his assignments in it, he has graduated to making an attempt to turn into a weapon in cross safety.

“I put on some strength,” Kelley mentioned. “I’m not trying to absorb contact. When I’m watching tape, I see a lot of guys just go up there and absorb. I’m trying to deliver a blow. I think that’s helped me.”

One other space that might vastly affect the backup working again resolution is particular groups. Kelley performed extra particular groups as a rookie than he did final season.

One of many lowlights of his 2020 season was a blown task that led to a blocked punt and landing for Jacksonville.

Kelley mentioned Ryan Ficken, the Chargers’ new particular groups coordinator, met with him early within the offseason and advised him he was too good of a participant to not be contributing in that space.

“I agreed with him,” Kelley mentioned. “I felt like I needed to take this phase way more seriously, attack it and just go harder. … It mostly comes down to effort and want-to.”

Kelley figures to be featured on offense and within the kicking recreation Saturday, when the Chargers take their first main step in figuring their season-opening roster.

And so on.

Kicker Dustin Hopkins missed follow Thursday due to a demise in his household. He was again on the sphere later within the day after rejoining the group. … Staley mentioned quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Easton Stick each will play in opposition to the Rams. He additionally mentioned Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins III, battling for the beginning proper sort out job, will play.