RB Austin Ekeler - Los Angeles Chargers
|5-10, 200||Born: 5-17-1995||College: Western State (CO)||Drafted: ---|
2019 Week 1 vs IND (12 / 58 / 1 rush, 7 / 6 / 96 / 2 rec)
The stat line makes it obvious, but Ekeler may have played even better than the statistics suggest. He was very busy from the opening series all the way through to the game-winning touchdown run, and dominated in just about every way possible. The Chargers designed numerous plays specifically for him, and he took advantage of the room the offensive line was opening up for him up-front. His first score of the game came on a 3-TE set when he leaked out of the backfield to get wide open in the end zone. It was a perfect play design, and he was mostly just the beneficiary of some lapsed coverage. That wasn't the case on his second score, when he took a very well-blocked screen reception up the right side with blockers in front. Once the defense met him, they tried to strip the ball instead of just going for the tackle. Ekeler proved too strong to be dragged down by strip attempts and weak arm tackles, and kept charging ahead. One last block sprung him ahead for the 55-yard score. On the overtime possession, he showed a lot of patience running west to east before finding the seam and bursting through it. He later capped that drive with a twisting run into the end zone to end the game, breaking a tackle at the 2-yard line before lunging for the goal line and his third score of the game. With Melvin Gordon's holdout continuing and showing no end in sight, Ekeler is proving to be extremely valuable at least in the short term.
2019 Week 2 vs DET (17 / 66 / 1 rush, 6 / 6 / 67 / 0 rec)
Austin Ekeler was terrific in a game where he could have had a massive day. Ekeler converted a goal-line touchdown early in the game, but had a reception for a long touchdown called back by a holding and fumbled at the goal line on a point-blank opportunity. He was elusive throughout the game, consistently making life difficult for the first defender. Ekeler out-touched Justin Jackson 23 to 8, a continued sign of his lead back role in the Melvin Gordon-less Chargers offense. Ekeler projects to be the lead back against Texans in week three.
2019 Week 3 vs HOU (9 / 36 / 0 rush, 7 / 7 / 45 / 0 rec)
Austin Ekeler had a down game after entering week three as the leading scoring running back in PPR scoring. Ekeler saw volume with 16 touches, but he was not able to create big plays like he has the previous two weeks. He was elusive in the running game and buoyed his day catching all seven of his targets, but they were not targets that set him up for success. For example, Philip Rivers threw him a target on the outside that hung in the air and made Ekeler an easy tackle for a closing defensive back for minimal gain. Ekeler faces a prime matchup next week at Miami and should be the primary running back as Melvin Gordon continues his holdout.
2019 Week 4 vs MIA (18 / 60 / 1 rush, 5 / 5 / 62 / 1 rec)
Troymaine Pope was listed as the de facto starter, but it was Ekeler who got the first carry of the game. He had a tough time in the early going as the Dolphins did a nice job of cutting off the edge repeatedly, but Ekeler finally started to get things going late in the first half. As usual, he consistently fell forward on his rushing attempts, and he was busy in the passing game too. On one of those, he snagged a swing pass from Rivers and shot up the left sideline for the easy score. In the second half, a crossing route resulted in another big gain. The key was the play of the offensive line in giving Rivers time to wait for these plays to develop. The line also played a key role in Ekeler's second touchdown of the game. He took a handoff out of shotgun from Rivers and plunged in for the score, featuring some excellent line blocking up front. Ekeler is the only player who has carried the ball inside the 5-yard line for the Chargers this season, but that will likely change next week with the return of Melvin Gordon. The return of Gordon is likely to affect how many touches Ekeler sees in total, but he has been extremely impressive in his own right and has likely earned at least a decent share of the backfield work. He has proven adept at short yardage work as well as passing game work, and his strength is very underrated. On one play in particular, a swarm of Dolphins attempted a gang tackle and Ekeler still gained two yards on the play. A 2-yard run isn't impressive in and of itself, but it's the fact that it went for two positive yards rather than a loss of 3-4 yards that was the most impressive aspect. He almost never goes down on first contact or gets knocked backwards.
2019 Week 5 vs DEN (3 / 7 / 0 rush, 16 / 15 / 86 / 0 rec)
With Melvin Gordon reporting to the team and getting his first action in this week's game, owners were eager to see how the Chargers would divvy up the workload. This game probably wasn't a typical representation of how things will shake out moving forward, but it did provide some clues as to the percentage breakdown we can possibly expect. Ekeler had more total touches (18-16), but Gordon had more rushing attempts (12-3). Ekeler didn't see his first touch of the game until more than 11 minutes into the first quarter, and that resulted in a swing pass for a first down. There would be many more swing passes and checkdowns to Ekeler, who turned in a whopping fifteen receptions to set a team record. Granted, much of that work came in the fourth quarter with the Chargers in catch-up mode (4-43 on the last garbage time drive featuring almost no defense). As for the quality of the rest of his touches, he did get some red zone and goal line work. Late in the first half, the Chargers got into the red zone with a chance to score. Rivers found Ekeler who made a nice grab in the flat. He turned and lunged for the end zone, but was kept away from the goal line by the defender who made a tremendous tackle. On the ensuing fourth down play, the Chargers faked the run to Melvin Gordon and instead handed to Ekeler up the left side. He appeared to get to the edge and was headed for the end zone, but just as he lunged for the goal line the ball was knocked loose. It was fumbled into the end zone, and the Chargers came up empty. It wasn't the best sign for his short yardage and goal line work moving forward, considering how successful Gordon has been on the goal line since his rookie season. One other negative on his ledger was a piece of miscommunication between Ekeler and Rivers on what was supposed to be a second down handoff. Ekeler misread the play call and didn't realize he was supposed to be getting the handoff. The busted play resulted in Rivers holding onto the ball and taking a 3-yard loss. Mistakes happen, but again it's bad timing to make mistakes like that with Gordon now back in the fold.
2019 Week 6 vs PIT (5 / 14 / 0 rush, 4 / 3 / 14 / 0 rec)
Ekeler ran behind Melvin Gordon in this one but had few quality moments. He was engulfed on his early touches, but had a nice run to open the second half once the team was down 21 points. He showed more speed than Devin Bush on a 2nd half catch to get a short gain, but had little effect on the outcome of the game.
2019 Week 7 vs TEN (5 / 7 / 0 rush, 8 / 7 / 118 / 1 rec)
Melvin Gordon saw more touches than Ekeler (18-12), but once again Ekeler was far more productive (125 yards from scrimmage for Ekeler, compared to just 29 for Gordon). Gordon also had a couple of costly goal line fumbles (only one was lost, but it ended the game) and was sloppy with a few other touches as well. On top of that, Ekeler actually played well himself. His first few receptions all went for first downs or close to it, dragging tackles up the field with him at times. He again showed how quickly he can get to top speed, and excellent vision to pick up yards where other players may not have that same ability to. In the second half, the Chargers found themselves down by ten. Philip Rivers used a quick strike offense to lead the team on a four-play, 75-yard drive, the big play being a 41-yard bomb to Ekeler down the sideline for the easy score. Ekeler had beaten the linebacker off the line and was wide open, waltzing in the last few yards to get the Chargers to within three points. Ekeler was essentially playing wide receiver in the fourth quarter, grabbing a slant over the middle to get inside the 20-yard line. And then later he grabbed a pass over the middle, dragged multiple defenders with him, and appeared to get in for the go-ahead touchdown. Replays showed he was just short of the end zone, and overturned the touchdown. Despite having time and multiple opportunities to get in from inside the 1-yard line, the Chargers failed to convert the score (and notably, didn't put the ball in Ekeler's hands on any of the goal line attempts to score).
2019 Week 8 vs CHI (3 / 3 / 0 rush, 3 / 2 / 19 / 1 rec)
Ekeler couldn't have been quieter in the early going, with just one touch prior to halftime. This is a player who was dominating the offensive playbook in the early portion of the season. Ekeler's first handoff didn't come until 6:15 remained in the third quarter, as the team was almost abandoning the run for large chunks of the game due to a complete lack of success. He was wide open on a 2-yard inside slant, but some great awareness by Khalil Mack resulted in the pass being deflected away at the last moment to prevent what would have been an easy score. Later in that possession, Ekeler got an inside handoff from the 2-yard line, but was completely swallowed up by the Chicago defense on a very slowly-developing play. Finally late in the fourth quarter with the Chargers driving for the lead, Rivers found Ekeler in the flat off a play action fake. Ekeler caught the pass and was met by a linebacker at the 5-yard line, but Ekeler managed to slip the tackler and dart up the field for the score. He was hit hard at the end of the run, but all that did was help propel him even more into the end zone. That score gave the Chargers the lead, which they would not relinquish.
2019 Week 9 vs GB (12 / 70 / 0 rush, 4 / 4 / 23 / 0 rec)
Ekeler didn't have any huge gainers like he had early in the season (in this game, his longest run went for 16 and his longest reception went for 12). And he again took a back seat to Melvin Gordon on overall touches (23-16 in favor of Gordon) and also relinquished goal line duties (Gordon scored twice from the goal line, without Ekeler getting in). But the split between the two players appeared to be precisely how the Chargers would prefer to attack teams with this 1-2 punch going forward. Ekeler was split out as a wide receiver at times, as the Chargers have made several attempts to figure out how to best deploy the duo. As usual, Ekeler looked very good with the ball in his hands. His only scoring opportunity came from the 2-yard line on a second half run to the left side. He looked to have a seam, but the defenders up front did a good job of quickly closing it up. Outside of that, he was a change of pace to Gordon more often than not although more of a complementary piece than a true backup. In recent weeks, Gordon has been seeing a lot more touches than Ekeler but in this game the coaching got those touches a bit closer. And not surprisingly, they had far more success than they'd been having in recent weeks. Ekeler briefly left the game after a first half run play and appeared to be pointing to his eye, but he returned soon after that showing no ill effects.
2019 Week 10 vs OAK (6 / 19 / 0 rush, 2 / 2 / 29 / 1 rec)
Ekeler's role shrank in this game, totaling only eight touches as opposed to 24 for Melvin Gordon. Normally a monster in the passing game, Ekeler saw a season-low two targets in the passing game. Fortunately for his owners, he made the most of those two opportunities. The first was on the first passing attempt of the game, getting open down the seam to pick up 23 yards. And the second was a crossing route late in the fourth quarter. He ran across the formation in tandem with Keenan Allen. Allen's defender essentially tackled Allen at the goal line, which had the unintended effect of taking the would-be tackler out of the play so that Ekeler could run in unscathed after catching the short pass. He dove ahead to the end zone for a short-lived Charger lead. On the ground, Ekeler had a tough time getting much going aside from one solid run for ten yards in the first half. He was given a short yardage attempt after Melvin Gordon briefly left the game (Gordon had been violently tackled at the 5-yard line and came off the field following the hit). EKeler was swallowed up by the Raider defense on the ensuing play, and Gordon returned to the field after missing just one play. While Gordon and Ekeler have played as a tandem over the last few weeks, this game saw the breakdown as much more of a starter/backup type of split, with Gordon obviously getting the lion's share of the workload.
2019 Week 11 vs KC (5 / 24 / 0 rush, 12 / 8 / 108 / 0 rec)
Ekeler was very efficient in both the running and the passing game (though it should be noted that 18 of his 24 rushing yards came on one play, so his other four carries went for just six yards). That one long run resulted in taking it down nearly to the goal line early in the second quarter, a drive that resulted in a field goal. But it was the passing game where Ekeler certainly did the majority of his damage. His first reception was a swing pass where he was hit perfectly in stride. Rivers fired it out to him up the right side, and Ekeler did the rest darting 37 yards up the sideline for the huge early gain. Ekeler then saw a look from the 5-yard line on a crossing route, but the defender knocked it away at the last second. Even if it had been caught, the play wasn't really going anywhere. Ekeler had two more chunk plays late in the half, for 16 and 18 yards as he continued to be the go-to guy in the passing game for Rivers. In the second half, Ekeler was seen briefly getting looked at by the training staff, but he came back in a few plays later. Ekeler was targeted deep down the seam and while the pass fell incomplete, Ekeler did draw the long pass interference penalty when his arm was grabbed with the ball in the air. Curiously, Ekeler was also the target on the final play of the game. With the Chargers deep in Kansas City territory and driving for the potentially game-tying or game-winning score, Ekeler was targeted on a fade pattern in the end zone. The diminutive Ekeler was beaten to the ball by the much taller defender, which sealed the victory for Kansas City.
2019 Week 13 vs DEN (9 / 16 / 0 rush, 5 / 4 / 51 / 1 rec)
Ekeler couldn't get much going on the ground in this one, gaining eight yards on his longest run of the game and just eight yards total on his other eight rushing attempts. But he did some damage in the passing game. Late in the half, he was in single coverage against a linebacker and easily got away from him. Rivers hoisted a floater down the sideline perfectly in stride to Ekeler, who did the rest of the work himself. He was eventually met at the goal line by two defenders, bu the managed to bang into the end zone and hold onto the ball. What was also key about that play is that it was a designed pass to Ekeler where he was the first option, not simply a check-down option. Ekeler was a bit quieter in the second half, although he had one really nice individual effort that ended up not counting. Facing a lot of pressure in the pocket, Rivers dumped off a pass to Ekeler. Despite being surrounded by defenders, Ekeler managed to weave his way up the field and pick up 11 yards and a first down. The Chargers, however, were called for holding on the play which turned a first down into third and 20.
2019 Week 14 vs JAX (8 / 101 / 0 rush, 5 / 4 / 112 / 1 rec)
Even on a day that Philip Rivers was wildly effective and dominated in every way possible, it was clear that Ekeler was the offensive star of the game for the Chargers. He went over 200 yards from scrimmage (doing so with only 11 total touches, tying him for the third-fewest touches all-time for a player going over 200 yards). And then for good measure, he took his last touch of the game for a 13-yard screen pass up the right side. Right from the outset, it was clear that Ekeler was in line for a huge day. On the Chargers' first play from scrimmage, a Hunter Henry block sprung Ekeler up the right side for a 27-yard gain. Later in the half, a big burst up the middle resulted in a 23-yard gain. He hit the hole with speed, then cut back a second time for an extra ten yards after hitting the second level of the defense. He capped his first half play with an incredibly strong run up the left sideline for a 35-yard gain. He simply dominated the would-be tacklers who were trying to drag him down, instead shaking them off like nothing. There was an additional 15 yards tacked onto that one due to a facemask penalty as well. Finally, Ekeler put the exclamation point on his day with probably the best play of his career. With the blitz getting in Rivers' face quickly, he found Ekeler in the flat with a wall of blockers in front of him. Ekeler perfectly read which hole to hit, and shot up like a cannon through the middle of the field en route to an 84-yard scamper while out-running multiple defenders into the end zone.
2019 Week 15 vs MIN (7 / 19 / 0 rush, 7 / 5 / 62 / 0 rec)
A week after one of the biggest games of his (or any running back's) career, Ekeler came back to Earth a bit. Minnesota seemed to be employing a strategy of keying on the Los Angeles run game and forcing Philip Rivers to beat them deep. Rivers was unable to do so, and so the run game never really got going. On the bright side for Ekeler, Melvin Gordon lost two fumbles early on which led to a greater share of the rushing workload. On the downside for Ekeler, the Chargers trailed significantly throughout the second half so there wasn't much rushing workload to be had. And on the occasion that there was, there wasn't much room to run. He was again effective in the passing game, with his big gain going for 27 yards. He shook loose wide open down the sideline out of the backfield for the long pass play. Later in the first half, he took a short catch in the flat and was absolutely drilled by a defender. The ball popped loose and sat on the ground for several moments with three Minnesota defenders around it, but Keenan Allen alertly dove and knocked it out of bounds before anyone could recover from the defense. After Melvin Gordon's second fumble of the game early in the second half, Ekeler got the next carry and shared the workload with Justin Jackson as Gordon remained on the bench for nearly the entirety of the second half.
2019 Week 16 vs OAK (4 / 11 / 0 rush, 6 / 5 / 58 / 0 rec)
Despite playing second fiddle to Melvin Gordon in terms of touches (15-9), Ekeler out-gained him 69-47 from scrimmage. Neither player did much in terms of the running game, as the Chargers totaled just 19 yards on the ground. But Ekeler did do some damage in the passing game. He picked up 17 early on a 3rd and 21 play with the Raiders playing soft coverage. Ekeler was also responsible for the first Charger first down of the game, picking it up on a sweep late in the first quarter. He looked good on a short reception in the flat late in the first half. He ran through an arm tackle on the first defender, then spun out of the next would-be tackler to pick up more yardage after the catch. In the second half, his biggest play came on a crossing route when the Raiders zone somehow lost track of the underneath receiver. Unfortunately for Ekeler, despite struggling mightily it was Gordon who got the call both times the Chargers were at the goal line. He converted both opportunities for touchdowns, relegating Ekeler to do his damage "between the 20s".
2019 Week 17 vs KC (9 / 46 / 0 rush, 11 / 9 / 43 / 0 rec)
Ekeler entered the game 50 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard receiving campaign of his career. He was fed the football with a team high nine receptions, but he couldn't quite pick up the necessary yardage, falling just seven yards short. It didn't help that he lost seven yards on a screen pass that got blown up on his first reception of the game. But he continued picking up yardage in multiple ways across the field. The Chiefs seemed intent on making sure Ekeler didn't beat them, but in the process they allowed Melvin Gordon to roam free out of the backfield. Despite Ekeler being generally thought of as the better receiver (and closing in on a personal milestone), it was noteworthy that the Chargers opted to use Gordon so much out of the backfield in the passing game down the stretch. In terms of Ekeler's rushing attempts, he had a handful of attempts where he actually had room to roam. He found a big hole on a second half run up the right side, and ran untouched until he was already past the second level of the defense en route to a 23-yard gain.
2018 Week 1 vs KC (5 / 39 / 0 rush, 5 / 5 / 87 / 1 rec)
Ekeler teamed with Melvin Gordon to form a strong 1-2 punch in this game, which looks like it may be a preview of their usage patterns throughout the season. After a training camp featuring a lot of speculation of Ekeler having a regular role (rather than just a true backup role), Ekeler found himself very involved in the game plan as a complementary piece in the running game. He showed extremely tough running on the inside, almost never going down on first contact and dragging defenders for yards at a time. And despite Gordon leading all players in receptions, Ekeler found himself as a key piece in the passing game as well. He demonstrated excellent concentration and acrobatics on a deep ball down the left sideline that may have been intended for Keenan Allen. Allen deflected it with one hand and Ekeler managed to reach up and hang on with one hand of his own despite being blanketed by a defender. He then absorbed a huge hit from a defender, which added even more yardage on the penalty. Late in the first half, Rivers hoisted a floater up to him in the end zone in single coverage. Again he absorbed a big hit just as the ball got there, but he managed to hang on for the score. Just as importantly as his apparently regular usage pattern, is the fact that he appears in line for a regular featured role to himself if anything were to happen to Gordon.
2018 Week 2 vs BUF (11 / 77 / 0 rush, 3 / 3 / 21 / 0 rec)
For the second straight week, Ekeler very much had a role in the offense apart from just being Melvin Gordon's backup or change of pace. He took a swing pass for a first down, and soon added a jet sweep up the right side for a 15-yard gain (Gordon was on the field at the same time for the handoff). Ekeler was just so slippery, moving his way in and out of the way of defenders almost at will. But he wasn't all speed and shake, since he leveled more than a handful of defenders at the end of his runs to constantly fall forward and pick up extra yardage. Late in the first half, Gordon left the game with a knee issue and Ekeler was given a larger workload. Gordon again left the game in the second half, this time presumably with a neck injury, and again Ekeler was leaned on. Gordon did come back in for one play before leaving for good (suggesting it wasn't a serious injury), but Ekeler was pretty much the go-to guy from that point on. Late in the game, he was given a goal line attempt but was unable to push the pile for the score. Shortly thereafter, a low snap to Philip Rivers nearly resulted in a turnover, but Ekeler was there to pounce on he loose ball and save possession for the Chargers.
2018 Week 3 vs LAR (4 / 47 / 0 rush, 3 / 3 / 24 / 0 rec)
As quiet as Ekeler was in the first half, he did some damage after halftime. He picked up 32 of his 47 rushing yards on one run, slithering his way in and out of would-be tacklers up the middle. He found a small hole, then bounced across the grain after a broken tackle before covering up the ball at the end of the run en route to a career-long rush. He added a nice reception that also doubled as a way to bail out Philip Rivers, who was under pressure from the defense. Ekeler was leaking out behind Rivers and into the flat, so Rivers dumped it off to him. Ekeler's defender thought he had him squared up, but again his surprising speed got him the edge where he then tip-toed the sideline for a 15-yard pickup. Unfortunately, Ekeler's day didn't end as well as it began. He was targeted on a fourth down pass attempt with the game on the line, but Rivers threw it short of the marker. So Ekeler had to make an effort to extend the ball past the line to convert. But he was met by multiple defenders, and the ball was punched out where it was recovered by the Rams for a turnover. Mike Williams came very close to recovering the ball on the ground (and it might have been a first down if he had), but the Rams defender barely beat him to it.
2018 Week 4 vs SF (8 / 25 / 0 rush, 3 / 2 / 31 / 1 rec)
Ekeler didn't even register his first touch until just over three minutes remained in the first half, but it was a nice upfield cut for a 7-yard gain. He made up for lost time in a hurry, however, by hauling in a 22-yard touchdown late in the first half. He was lined up wide as a receiver, and simply outran his man off the line. Rivers found him perfectly in stride with a bullet pass in the end zone. The defender was sort of holding EKeler's arm as he caught it (not illegally), but he still managed to hang on. He was involved as usual in the second half, and he ended up with 10 total touches from scrimmage despite the limited early work.
2018 Week 5 vs OAK (6 / 15 / 0 rush, 3 / 1 / 44 / 1 rec)
After getting a late start in last week's game, Ekeler came on early in this one. Melvin Gordon had a long run early on, and Ekeler immediately entered. But he didn't really make his presence felt until later in the half. Rivers hit him with a short screen and he was met in the flat by two defenders. One lightning-fast cut to the inside later, and both defenders were on the ground as Ekeler was taking off for the end zone. He shot up the left sideline following one block, and he was gone for the 44-yard touchdown scamper. Late in the game with the Chargers trying to run out the clock, it was Ekeler and not Gordon who got the call to grind out the tough yardage. Ekeler nearly broke into the end zone for his second touchdown, but was just barely tripped up as he got inside the 5-yard line.
2018 Week 6 vs CLE (7 / 60 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
Ekeler didn't enter the game until early in the second quarter, and immediately needed to save the day. On an ill-advised flea-flicker throwback from Keenan Allen to Philip Rivers, the bad throw ended up on the ground with Cleveland defenders all around it. Ekeler smartly pounced on the football, at least saving possession for the Chargers. Ekeler didn't see an offensive touch until just over ten minutes remained in the third quarter. But he sort of made up for lost time with seven handoffs in the second half, breaking loose for long gains of 16 and 20 and generally picking up where Gordon left off. He once again did an incredible job of fighting off tacklers. On one carry, he was seemingly wrapped up until his excellent balance kept his feet moving into the open field. The duo is benefitting from some excellent blocking up front, but also showing tremendous individual efforts on a weekly basis.
2018 Week 7 vs TEN (12 / 42 / 0 rush, 7 / 5 / 26 / 0 rec)
Ekeler fought for every yard he gained in the game, but it was clear that the Titans made it a point to take him out of the equation. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry after coming into the game averaging 6.4 per carry. The downside for the Titans is that the focus on Ekeler seemed to cause them to forget about the passing game, as they gave up long touchdowns of 75 and 55 yards to the Charger wide receivers. Ekeler ran hard, even seeking out contact at times. But the Titans did a great job of stringing runs out to the outside and/or meeting him in the backfield, so Ekeler had a really tough time getting into any kind of rhythm. On a positive note, the running backs saw a total of 20 touches in the game, and Ekeler got 17 of those. So in a game where Melvin Gordon wasn't active, Ekeler was seen as an every-down back and not just a piece of a committee.
2018 Week 9 vs SEA (3 / 21 / 0 rush, 2 / 1 / 13 / 0 rec)
With Melvin Gordon returning after missing the last game due to a hamstring injury, one might have expected more of a timeshare between the two backs in this game. That certainly wasn't the case, as Gordon had 17 touches to Ekeler's four. Ekeler did do very well with those four touches, totaling almost forty yards from scrimmage (including one run for 11 yards where he barely had his foot tripped up at the last second; otherwise, he had a lot of room in front of him). Ekeler's lone reception came on a dumpoff early in the second half. Never one to shy from contact, he caught it behind the line of scrimmage, turned it upfield, and ran right into the tackler while falling forward to pick up the first down.
2018 Week 10 vs OAK (3 / 19 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
Ekeler's performance in this game is precisely the reason we write these recaps. His stat line shows three rushing attempts for 19 nondescript yards. But Russell Okung was called for a holding penalty on what would have been a 42-yard touchdown run by Ekeler in the second half. The worst part of it for Ekeler owners is that the hold happened well away from the ball, and Ekeler would have easily scored even without the penalty being committed. He did a great job of hitting the hole on a 2nd and 1 attempt, scampering up the middle for the doomed score. Ekeler also later added another very strong run late in the game that would have converted for another first down, but once again Okung nullified the run with another penalty. Ekeler dragged would-be tacklers across the line to gain, but it was all for naught.
2018 Week 11 vs DEN (6 / 29 / 0 rush, 2 / 2 / 40 / 0 rec)
Ekeler was out-touched by Melvin Gordon 24-8, but was even more productive on a per-touch basis. The Broncos were selling out on the run for most of the first half, so there wasn't much room for either player. In the second half, the two lined up in the backfield on occasion and were effective in doing so. Ekeler had several big chunk gains in the second half, including a 17-yard reverse, a swing pass for 17, and a crossing route over the middle for 23. On the crossing route, he beat his tackler up the right sideline and picked up big yardage after the catch. It was reported late that Ekeler left the game with a minor injury following a return, but no update was provided on his condition immediately after the game.
2018 Week 12 vs ARI (5 / 35 / 1 rush, 11 / 10 / 68 / 0 rec)
Ekeler was red-hot against the Cardinals, especially seeing a team-high 11 targets and fueling a touchdown drive in hurry-up mode to close the first half. Even before Melvin Gordon's mid-third quarter injury Ekeler was seeing a myriad of snaps, including as a slot receiver and motioning before the snap. Ekeler had five receptions on the late-second quarter drive alone and commonly made the first defender miss on his touches. Even with Melvin Gordon out for most of the season half, Justin Jackson saw most of the traditional running back carries, not Ekeler. With a blowout game script as the Chargers bled the clock and even pulled Philip Rivers for most of the fourth quarter, there was not clarity on how the running back snaps would be distributed in a more competitive game script.
2018 Week 13 vs PIT (13 / 21 / 0 rush, 8 / 5 / 22 / 0 rec)
Ekeler had almost no room to run whatsoever, getting swarmed by Pittsburgh defenders nearly every time he got near the football. The defense softened up just a bit in the second half, allowing him to at least get some positive yardage gains, but still found mostly tough sledding. It's important to note that Ekeler had 18 touches to Justin Jackson's 9, but it's equally important to note that Ekeler's 13 carries resulted in just 21 yards whereas Jackson's 8 carries resulted in 63 yards (including an 18-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter). Late in the game, Ekeler took a huge hit on an attempted screen pass out of the backfield. It was ruled that he never fully had possession on the play; otherwise, it would have been ruled a fumble. Finally, Ekeler contributed a positive play late in the game when he was the bailout option for Rivers just before he was about to get sacked. But otherwise, it was an uninspiring performance as the team's de facto featured back. This was the second time this season Ekeler has gotten an opportunity to be the lead guy, and it was the second time he underwhelmed. It is also noteworthy that it was Jackson and not Ekeler who was in the game on the potential game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.
2018 Week 14 vs CIN (15 / 66 / 1 rush, 5 / 2 / 28 / 0 rec)
Ekeler had a very solid game, but a late game injury has suddenly put his weekly availability into some doubt. Coming into the game, it was a bit up in the air as to how the Chargers would approach the decision on how to split up the running back workload. It was assumed all season long that Ekeler was the go-to handcuff to Melvin Gordon, but when Gordon missed last week's game, it was Justin Jackson who looked significantly more impressive running the ball. Any questions about Ekeler, however, were answered early on in this one. He got the first carry of the game and was in the backfield to start, and rarely left the field especially in the early going. He ran very well, displaying his trademark strength and agility, and picked up chunks of yardage behind some excellent blocking up front against the outmanned Cincinnati defense. He found creases between the tacklers, and whenever he was met by a tackler he just ran through the mostly weak attempts to bring him down. Ekeler picked up nice yardage on a well-designed screen pass down to the 5-yard line to close out the first quarter. The rest between quarters enabled him enough of a breather that he stayed in the backfield to pick up the touchdown from 5 yards out. He took it right up the middle almost untouched on his way to the end zone. Later in the first half, he was wide open down the sideline on a deep ball attempt that could have gone for another score. But Rivers was rushed a bit on the throw, and the pass sailed too far over Ekeler's head and out of bounds. Ekeler received three straight carries on the first possession of the second half following a Cincinnati turnover on downs, and even converted a 4th and 1 rush up the middle. The rest of the half, he simply dragged defenders around the field and ended up out-touching Jackson by a final count of 17-9. Unfortunately for Ekeler, he was injured on the onside kick late in the fourth quarter and it was reported afterwards that he had aggravated a stinger injury. His availability for Thursday's game against Kansas City is very much in question at this early point, and with Melvin Gordon expected out once again, this may be Jackson's turn to man the backfield for the Chargers.
2018 Week 17 vs DEN (8 / 58 / 1 rush, 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
In his first game back since suffering a neck injury several weeks ago, Ekeler ended up putting up the best fantasy stats from the running back spot. He played sporadically in tandem with starter Melvin Gordon for most of the game. But late in the game, Gordon appeared to injure his ankle which gave Ekeler the chance to carry the load. Ekeler gained 41 yards on his first touch after the Gordon injury, breaking the first tackle in the backfield before showing some nice shifty moves in the open field en route to rumbling down the sideline for the big gain. A Keenan Allen reception put the ball on the doorstep of the end zone. And with Gordon remaining on the sideline nursing the ankle injury, Ekeler was called upon for a goal line carry. He pushed over the line for the score, Los Angeles's first offensive touchdown on the ground in the last ten meetings against Denver.
2018 Week 18 vs BAL (11 / 29 / 0 rush, 4 / 4 / 14 / 0 rec)
Austin Ekeler saw 15 touches against the Ravens. An injury that limited Melvin Gordon and the conservative game plan combined to give Ekeler a prominent role in the offense. The Chargers struggled to generate running room against the Ravens, and Ekeler was no different. In the passing game, Ekeler had receptions that set up a field goal at the end of the second quarter. Ekeler was able to make initial defenders miss during the game, but the Ravens defense was relentless and allowed few opportunities for big gains. While Justin Jackson had two carries in the fourth quarter, it was Ekeler who handled the primary duties in Gordon's absence. Gordon's status is important to watch heading into New England next weekend.
2018 Week 19 vs NE (0 / 0 / 0 rush, 5 / 3 / 19 / 0 rec)
Austin Ekeler had a quiet game against the Chargers. He was used on an end around and targeted on an out and up that did not fool Kyle Van Noy. He did have some garbage time receptions to salvage a small stat line, but his production came when the game was no longer in doubt.
2017 Week 8 vs NE (2 / 8 / 0 rush, 1 / 1 / 13 / 0 rec)
Ekeler had just three offensive touches in the game, but looked good with the ball. He took a 6-yard toss to the outside, getting tripped up a yard shy of a first down, in the first half. And he collected his lone reception on a 4th and 2 grab with the clock running late in the fourth quarter. Somehow, despite being tackled inbounds with nine seconds left, the Chargers got up to the line to spike it with one second left.
2017 Week 10 vs JAX (10 / 42 / 0 rush, 5 / 5 / 77 / 2 rec)
Ekeler was the primary offense for the Chargers. His first touchdown came on a dump off where he outran Myles Jack to the edge and then powered through a poor effort-level Jalen Ramsey tackle. He kept his balance down the sideline and then ran it in with the quickness. His next score came on a dump off but this one was more about his open field speed. With nothing but green in front of him, Ekeler outran the Jaguars D for the score. As a runner, he showed great agility and explosion but his lack of size and power shows up often.
2017 Week 11 vs BUF (6 / 40 / 1 rush, 2 / 2 / 18 / 0 rec)
Ekeler had eight touches in the game, and even managed a score on a nice 21-yard scamper midway through the fourth quarter. But to temper that enthusiasm just a bit, it should be noted that EKeler was a non-factor for the majority of the game with the outcome still in the balance. He didn't really get a large workload until the game had essentially been decided, and it was time to rest starter Melvin Gordon.
2017 Week 12 vs DAL (6 / 15 / 0 rush, 3 / 3 / 55 / 0 rec)
Ekeler saw a hearty 40% of the snaps against Dallas and had the biggest gain of the game of Chargers running backs. While Melvin Gordon had tough sledding on the interior for most of his work, Ekeler's versatility fueled his passing game prowess. As a split out receiver, Ekeler ran an out-and-up route to get wide open for a long reception down the sideline. Ekeler also added a third down conversion inside as a traditional running back among his nine touches. Ekeler has found consistency in his Danny Woodhead-type role within the offense, averaging more than 10 yards-per-catch on the season and five touchdowns on 61 touches. The Browns next week offer a positive game script matchup where touches for the Chargers running backs project to be high once again.
2017 Week 13 vs CLE (4 / 19 / 0 rush, 3 / 2 / 21 / 0 rec)
Despite his relative success when he gets the ball in his hands, Ekeler is still the clear backup to Melvin Gordon, as this is not a 1/1A type of situation like they have with the Saints or Jets. In this one, Ekeler showed some nice open field moves on a first half reception that went for 16 yards, and did an excellent job in the run game when they opted to go to him. The announcers revealed that, in conversations with the Charger strength coaches, the staff apparently said that Ekeler is the team's strongest player, pound-for-pound. It shows frequently, as he doesn't often go down upon first contact or from only one would-be tackler. In the second half, Ekeler dropped a swing pass that was laid out right in his hands, although based on the spot of the field, it's possible that he lost it in the sun.
2017 Week 14 vs WAS (4 / 49 / 0 rush, 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
Ekeler has proven to be a fine complement to starter Melvin Gordon as the change of pace back. On a day that Gordon saw 22 carries, Ekeler saw just 4 (despite averaging nearly four times as many yards per carry). Late in the first half, he committed what was deemed a "rookie mistake", but it was difficult to fault him for it. The Chargers had one timeout left and were driving to try and get into field goal range, with less than ten seconds on the clock. Ekeler broke a run up the left side as the seconds continued to run, and the team probably wanted him to take a knee so they could stop the clock and kick the field goal. But he saw daylight ahead of him and tried getting into the end zone for a potential touchdown. He was tackled down at the 4-yard line, but the clock ran out as he was being tackled. Outside of that, he again looked good with the ball in his hands and was not in on rushing plays late in the game even with the big lead - Gordon was.
2017 Week 15 vs KC (2 / 13 / 0 rush, 1 / 1 / 6 / 0 rec)
Ekeler was in and out of the game with some regularity early on, mostly working in the change of pace role to Melvin Gordon on third down situations. He had a nice 13-yard run up the left side in the first half, but only had one other touch until late in the game. He caught a short pass in the flat for first down yardage, but had the ball stripped away by a defender and recovered by the Chiefs. Needless to say, it was an extremely costly play and likely would have cost Ekeler playing time the remainder of the season anyway; but it was revealed after the game that he broke his hand on the play. It's unknown if he'll play the rest of the season with a cast on his hand, or if the team will just opt to shut him down.