Running back Austin Ekeler is intent to build off the Chargers’ first playoff berth since 2018, and he hopes to erase the bad taste of Los Angeles’ wild-card collapse in the process.
After falling to the Jaguars, 31-30, on Super Wild Card Weekend despite at one point holding a 27-0 lead, the Chargers elected to move on from offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi in favor of former Cowboys play-caller Kellen Moore. Ekeler understood the move as a necessity to spur change.
“We had success, but we’re still looking for a new chemistry to find some more consistency,” Ekeler said Saturday on NFL Network’s Super Bowl Live. “The NFL is so fluid, so we’re bringing Kellen in to see if we can get something going with him. He had a good track record with Dallas. Top of the categories in some of these statistics. So it’s like alright, let’s see if this is a new combination that can help us stay consistent. Because that’s what it’s going to come down to at the end of the season. We can’t have these up and downs.”
Many of the team’s “ups” last season were provided by Ekeler, who has still never been selected to a Pro Bowl despite leading the league in scrimmage touchdowns for two straight years. The 27-year-old pro, undrafted out of Western Colorado, powered the Chargers’ 30th-ranked rushing offense nearly singlehandedly in 2022. He ran for 915 yards and 13 touchdowns while contributing 722 receiving yards and a team-leading five TD catches.
He’s a do-it-all weapon that should be a dream for Moore considering the OC’s work in Dallas with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Moore just generated the league’s ninth-best running offense in terms of yards for the second consecutive season, utilizing the thunder of Elliot for 876 rushing yards on 231 carries and striking with Pollard’s lighting at opportune times for 1,007 yards on 193 attempts.
Ekeler held a monopoly on carries for the Chargers with 204 — Joshua Kelley trailed far behind him in second with 69 attempts — but Moore’s ability to mix runners could lend itself to keeping Ekeler and others healthy, which the RB referenced when asked what the Chargers require to make a deeper postseason run.
He’s already spoken to his new coordinator about those expectations of improving on what L.A. accomplished before Moore arrived.
“We chatted for a little bit,” Ekeler said, “I told him like, look man, you’re coming into a team that is hungry. We are ready to go. I know me, I’m going to be salty until we get into training camp. And I’m going to make sure I let everyone know and remind everybody that we were up 27-0 and lost. And we’ve got to get back there because we’ve got unfinished business to do. So I’m excited for him to come in and I hope he’s ready too.”