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Bulked-up Joshua Kelley in the running for Chargers' heavily contested backup role

Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Football

LOS ANGELES — Since he was drafted, the Chargers changed their coaching staff and invested picks in two more running backs.

His three most productive games remain the first three of his NFL career, in 2020.

Now entering his third season and facing as much competition and uncertainty as he ever has, Joshua Kelley arrived at training camp in Costa Mesa a changed man.

"My whole goal this offseason was to become the best football player I could possibly be," he said 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."

Coming out of UCLA, Kelley's future appeared to be on immediate display under the previous coaching regime of Anthony Lynn.

He carried 43 times for 167 yards through the first three weeks of the 2020 season, serving as a much-needed counterpunch to starter Austin Ekeler.

 

But Kelley lost fumbles in back-to-back games — both losses, against Carolina and Tampa Bay — and has been trying to recover since.

He said he dedicated himself this spring to improving physically, enlisting the help of Overtime Athletes, a training outfit in Florida recommended by former Chargers teammate Rayshawn Jenkins.

"I evaluated myself," Kelley said. "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, said Kelley is "much stronger, much more compact" in this training camp. He praised Kelley for being "a more complete back."

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