Chargers News: Big expectations for Austin Ekeler, Kicker competition heats up, Quentin Johnston

Nov 6, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) reacts with
Nov 6, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) reacts with / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Austin Ekeler trade saga reached a surprising end a few weeks ago when Ekeler and the LA Chargers agreed to a reworked contract. Essentially, Ekeler has a chance to earn more money in 2023 by reaching certain incentives while still becoming a free agent next offseason to pursue a lucrative contract.

It's a win-win for both parties, as Ekeler was the lifeblood of LA's offense last season. He notched a career-high in scrimmage yards (1,637) and scored 18 total touchdowns; 13 as a runner and five as a pass-catcher.

Ekeler is well-established as one of the game's premier offensive weapons. Though undersized relative to most goal line backs, the 5-foot-10 gym rat is as good as they come in terms of reaching the end zone.

He led all players last season with 18 touchdowns and his 38 total scores over the past two seasons are tops in the league.

It'd be reasonable to expect TD regression from Ekeler, but Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr believes Ekeler is headed for a three-peat in the touchdown department (he tied for the NFL lead in 2021) as part of his 100 bold predictions for the 2023 season.

Will Chargers' Austin Ekeler lead NFL in touchdowns in 2023?

Here's what Orr said of his Ekeler prediction.

""Ekeler is remaining with the Chargers, which was a brilliant piece of self-realization from their general manager and coach. He is an invaluable part of the process in L.A. The team will be rewarded with another massive chunk of touchdowns from the goal-line sniper himself. Ekeler is as automatic and dependable as it gets inside the 5-yard line.""

While Bolts fans certainly would like Justin Herbert to throw for more touchdowns -- it would help if Mike Williams and Keenan Allen stayed healthy -- every score counts the same and peppering Ekeler with touches inside the red zone has worked like a charm the last two seasons.

In other Chargers news, the kicker competition between Dustin Hopkins and Cameron Dicker is heating up. Both kickers made all five of their attempts at Wednesday's practice, hitting from 52 yards, 48 yards, 43 yards, 32 yards and 27 yards, respectively.

Entering his age-32 season, Hopkins kicked in five games for the Bolts last season. He made 9-of-10 field goals and all 12 extra-points.

Dicker, meanwhile, kicked for the Eagles and Chargers as a rookie. He made 19-of-20 field goals across 10 games for Los Angeles, including all 22 extra points. The team tendered a contract offer to Dicker after the season to keep him around for 2023.

To end on (another) high note, first-round pick Quentin Johnston made a spectacular grab in individual drills Wednesday.

There wasn't any coverage on the play, but the catch gives fans a glimpse of what Johnston will bring to the passing game. The TCU product placed above the 95th percentile at the Combine in both the broad jump and vertical jump.

Pair that with Justin Herbert's deadly accuracy and this might be the beginning of a special partnership.