Austin Ekeler return to the Los Angeles Chargers is not scheduled, according to coach Brandon Staley.
Chargers quarterback Austin Ekeler, who led the NFL in touchdowns the past two seasons, injured his ankle against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. He didn’t practice last week and missed Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
As one of the Chargers’ most reliable players, Ekeler rushed for 117 yards and one touchdown against the Dolphins and had five catches for 47 yards.
Without Ekeler, the Chargers’ running backs rushed for just 61 yards against the Titans.
The Chargers will rely on Joshua Kelley, who had 39 yards rushing and a passing target Sunday. Since joining the Chargers in 2020, Kelley has played eight games without Ekeler without scoring a touchdown.
As a result of Sunday’s loss, Kelley had his highest rushing total in games without Ekeler; he has never had more than 24 receiving yards in such games.
Since Ekeler debuted in 2017, the Chargers are 49-41 when he plays and 3-7 when he doesn’t. The Chargers score 3 more points each game when Ekeler plays than when he doesn’t.
It is good news for the Chargers that their opponent this Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings, has one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. As of Thursday, the Vikings allowed 175 yards to Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift, the third most in the NFL.
Kelley and the Chargers’ other running backs, Elijah Dotson and Isaiah Spiller, should be able to produce without Ekeler.
Since the 1970 merger, six teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3: the 2018 Texans, 1998 Bills, 1995 Lions, 1992 Chargers, 1982 Buccaneers, and 1981 Jets.
As a result, it would be the second time in 15 seasons that the Chargers have started the season with three losses. The last time was in 2017, when they finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
Although the Chargers lost to the Dolphins and Titans and had chances late to win both games, they were expected to be contenders this season and made changes in the offseason to prepare for that.
AI zombies at yesterday's Los Angeles Chargers game 🤖 pic.twitter.com/PRGfZ4Rx7c
— Mad Mac (@Revelation2041) September 11, 2023
They fired their offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, after their meltdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs last season, and hired offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. In addition to signing wide receiver Quentin Johnston and signing Eric Kendricks, they rewarded quarterback Justin Herbert with a five-year, $262 million deal.
Despite starting 0-2, Staley believes his team has the right mentality.
It is my belief that people believe in the type of players we have, and the type of coaches we have, so that we can make good things happen in the future. “And we just need to stay consistent with our process and consistent with the people out there on the field, and good things will happen for us.”