COSTA MESA, Calif. – Coach Brandon Staley, beforehand satisfied that Austin Ekeler is the Chargers’ finest working again regardless of their speeding struggles, hinted that adjustments may very well be coming in Los Angeles’ backfield.
“Competitors for carries will probably be one thing you’ll be able to see occurring,” Staley stated Wednesday. “We will proceed to discover and make changes so we will discover the rhythm I have been speaking about. That is actually one solution to do it.”
The final time Staley stated there can be competitors at a place group, it was the group’s defensive backs, following the Chargers’ Week 11 loss to the Inexperienced Bay Packers. In that recreation, the Chargers allowed 322 yards and two touchdowns to quarterback Jordan Love, the primary 300 by a Packers quarterback since Aaron Rodgers in 2021.
Within the Chargers’ subsequent recreation, Staley benched cornerbacks Michael Davis and Ja’Sir Taylor and security Dean Marlowe.
“We all know Austin is an efficient working again,” Staley stated. “We simply have not discovered a rhythm within the working recreation in current weeks. We simply have to remain behind it and hold working laborious in coaching.”
Ekeler began this season sturdy. In Week 1, he had 16 carries for 117 yards, a landing and 4 catches for 47 yards. However he suffered a excessive ankle sprain throughout that recreation, which saved him out till Week 5. Ekeler has struggled since his return.
Amongst working backs with at the very least 100 carries since Week 5, he has the fewest speeding yards (329) and yards per carry (3.0). He has 28 consecutive carries which have value 6 or fewer yards, tying the second-longest streak of any participant this season, trailing solely his personal stretch of 48 carries from Week 1 by means of Week 8 .
In Sunday’s win over the New England Patriots, Ekeler had 14 carries for 18 yards, a season low.
Joshua Kelley, who has been Ekeler’s backup for the previous 4 seasons, might see an elevated workload if adjustments come to this group.
Kelley began all three video games. Ekeler was injured, however the speeding assault did not look a lot completely different. Kelley gained 116 yards in that span, a median of two.6 yards per carry.
Isaiah Spiller, the Chargers’ 2022 fourth-round choose, is another choice. Spiller performed 5 video games this season.
Ekeler was one of many NFL’s finest working backs. He led the group with 107 receptions final season, and has probably the most receptions since 2019 with 354.
However Ekeler has had points with drops since returning in Week 5. He has the third-most drops amongst working backs with 4, and his 9.5% drop charge is third-highest amongst working backs with at the very least 30 targets, in keeping with TruMedia. Earlier than this season, Ekeler’s excessive drop season was 5 in 2021, and his drop charge had by no means exceeded 5.4%.
“I’ve to verify I do my half and make the performs. I am unable to hand over the ball. I’ve to verify I play on the stage I must be taking part in at,” Ekeler stated after Los Angeles. “Week 12 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, which was his second straight recreation with a fumble.
A few of Ekeler’s ball-handling points will be positioned on the Chargers’ offensive line. In line with TruMedia, Ekeler has been a median of 1.44 meters earlier than contact since week 5.
Amongst working backs with 100 carries since Week 5, he is only one of 4 averaging fewer than 2 yards earlier than contact and the one participant beneath 5’9 – an indication that the offensive line is struggling to create gaps the place he can run by means of earlier than being hit by defenders.
Throughout that very same interval, the Chargers’ run block win charge is 26%, seventh-worst within the NFL.
“Simply being on the identical web page is actually the largest factor we will work on,” offensive guard Jamaree Salyer stated. “It is holding us again just a little bit. It is not expertise. It is not effort or something like that. It is that we’re on the identical web page.”
Ekeler’s struggle comes at a very inopportune time. He’s within the closing yr of a four-year, $24.5 million contract. He requested a commerce this offseason after he and the Chargers couldn’t agree on a long-term extension. He then withdrew that commerce request later within the offseason and returned for a revised contract with extra incentives, however no extra years.
For Ekeler, this season was important to indicate the Chargers and the remainder of the NFL that he may very well be price a profitable contract extension earlier than hitting free company this offseason. As a substitute, the alternative has occurred.