LA Chargers News

LA Chargers: 3 areas that must improve from Week 1 to Week 2

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 13: Running back Joshua Kelley #27 of the Los Angeles Chargers is tackled against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 13: Running back Joshua Kelley #27 of the Los Angeles Chargers is tackled against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) – LA Chargers

Get Austin Ekeler involved in the passing game

It’s pretty much inexcusable to have the best receiving back in the league and only target him once in a close game. Many have pointed out throughout the offseason that Ekeler’s volume in the passing game might go down, and that’s expected after switching check-down-master Philip Rivers for Taylor, who doesn’t target running backs consistently.

But still, Ekeler has a deep receiving skillset and can take any given screen or check-down to the house, as well as line up outside or in the slot, and run routes out of the backfield. Having Ekeler as an option on designed rollouts for Taylor can help the defense guessing.

Taylor’s mobility adds a new facet to the Chargers’ offense that wasn’t properly taken advantage of, and while that mobility is a factor in Ekeler’s looks through the air decreasing, it might be a better idea to just change the way Ekeler receives the ball through the air, not eliminate it.

Ekeler is aiming to earn respect as a between the tackles runner, which is something he will do more constantly now that he is the featured back. But him being the featured back doesn’t mean he has to change who he is.

While he wasn’t exactly known for being a receiver out of college, he had to develop that part of his game to see the field behind Melvin Gordon and quickly became an excellent receiver. While he will have to evolve once again to fit the new offense and his new role, it would be foolish to not make use of the skills Ekeler acquired as a receiver.

While a 92-reception season is unlikely to repeat itself, there’s no reason to keep Ekeler to one target. Anthony Lynn has already said that it is a priority to feed Ekeler, but he might be making a transition to be a more traditional, between the tackles runner. That would be a grave mistake.

Anthony Lynn said the new scheme — primarily the increased QB and pocket movement — will limit check downs to RBs, including Austin Ekeler, who only had one target Sunday. But he said it's still a priority to get Ekeler touches moving forward. #Chargers

— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) September 14, 2020

The LA Chargers have an opportunity to feature a running back who won’t necessarily make his damage on the ground, and Ekeler’s greatest strengths are his versatility and his elusiveness. Unlocking Ekeler’s true potential in this offense will be a step in the right direction for this football team and this coaching staff.

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