It has become increasingly clear as the 2023 season has gone along that Brandon Staley's seat is heating up and he knows it. Whether it be snapping at reporters in the post-game press conference after an ugly loss or making foundational changes to the secondary, Staley is operating like a head coach who is clinging onto his job.
It appears that Staley is on the brink of making another one of those changes and it is one that Chargers fans have wanted for several weeks now — although it might enrage fantasy football players.
When speaking to the media on Wednesday, Staley said that there was going to be "competition" for carries at the running back position. While this may seem innocuous, Staley saying this to the media may indicate that the Chargers are going to take carries off of Austin Ekeler's plate, which has been the desired outcome for several weeks.
Brandon Staley may finally cut back on Austin Ekeler's role on the Chargers
To be clear, Staley did say that the team still wants to integrate Ekeler into the offensive game plan and give him opportunities to succeed. However, based on what he is saying already, fans may have to prepare for Ekeler to get fewer carries from Week 14 on.
The last time that Staley said there was going to be competition at a position (in the secondary) the team made wholesale changes to who plays and where they play. Michael Davis has essentially been benched two weeks in a row after Staley made those comments.
That is why we can safely say that Ekeler may have a smaller role in the running game and it is for a good reason. As great as Ekeler has been in years past, he simply has not been good this season and has been one of the worst backs in the league since his Week 1 outburst.
Ekeler is averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season and he has averaged 2.99 yards per carry this season. His 42.9% success rate while carrying the football ranks 34th out of 41 running backs in the NFL with at least 100 carries this season.
Ekeler's numbers get even worse when you remove his biggest runs of the year this season. Yes, Ekeler was the one carrying the ball on those runs, but that was often because of key blocks or defensive indifference. It wasn't because of anything Ekeler did, as any back could have had the same result in these specific instances.
Ekeler has six carries this season of 10+ yards and three carries of 20+ yards; those three carries for 20+ yards combined for 112 yards. Those three carries alone account for 25% of Ekeler's season total in rushing yards. Ekeler is averaging 2.7 yards per carry outside of those three big runs that are inflating the numbers. Ekeler has 62 carries of two or fewer yards, meaning that 49% of his carries essentially go nowhere.
Joshua Kelley has not been perfect this season and it isn't like he is going to be an offensive savior. But the Chargers have no other option than to give him more carries and just try something different.
After all, being better than Ekeler is not a high bar for Kelley to cross.
This Chargers season has been stressful, but you can take the sweat out of betting on them thanks to Caesars and BetMGM! Just sign up, (use promo code FSNFL1000 at Caesars) and deposit $10 or more. Then, your first bet (maybe on Chargers vs. Broncos?) will be backed by the house - up to $1,000 at Caesars and up to $1,500 at BetMGM. Sign up with Caesars and BetMGM today!