Chargers fans need to accept that Austin Ekeler isn't the same

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Chargers are off to a disappointing 1-2 start to the 2022 season that is made worse by the compounding injuries on both sides of the football. A season that was filled with so much promise has turned into a disaster quickly for the Bolts.

It does not help that there are underachieving portions of the roster that are having ripple effects on the rest of the team. Perhaps the biggest underperforming aspect of the Chargers through three weeks is the running game, as the Bolts are quite literally the worst running team in the league.

The depth at running back was questioned all offseason but at the very least, the team always had Austin Ekeler to fall back on. However, this season, Ekeler has been a shell of his former self in the run game and it should raise concern for Chargers fans about what level he can produce at this season and beyond.

Granted, it is a very small sample size and it may improve with more reps but it hasn't just been bad, it has been really bad. Ekeler is essentially at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to important rushing metrics for the 2022 season.

Chargers fans may have to accept that this is not the same Austin Ekeler.

Austin Ekeler still adds a lot of value in the passing game, there is no doubt about that. Ekeler is still a weapon that other teams have to scheme for and he has been able to produce in that regard for the Bolts this season.

But as a ball carrier, Ekeler has been poor. Not only are his rushing metrics really poor but his traditional stats are as well. Ekeler has just 80 rushing yards in 32 attempts, which is good for an average of 2.5 yards per attempt.

Don't get me wrong, the offensive line has not done Ekeler very many favors thus far this season with the run-blocking. Pro Football Focus grades are far from perfect but the Bolts' run-blocking grade does rank 27th in the league, which is obviously less than ideal. Last year, for comparison, the team ranked 11th.

Ekeler is not getting much help from his offensive line but he also is not doing anything himself to really extend plays and make his impact known as a rusher. The Jaguars rank lower than the Chargers with their run-blocking grade but their running back duo of James Robinson and Travis Etienne are having a solid season.

The Ekeler of the last two seasons would have maximized his blocking more than he is currently is. Great running backs elevate their play when they have to and Ekeler has not done that at all this season and we have seen that show up in the offense considering the team hasn't given him really any chances inside the five-yard line to find the endzone.

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Perhaps this could just be a slow start to the season and by year's end we will look ridiculous for ever questioning Ekeler's ability. However, in looking at the numbers and watching the games, it is clear that Ekeler is not the same runner that he was last season.