COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Chargers are 1-2 since they lost running back Austin Ekeler to the high ankle sprain he suffered in week one against the Miami Dolphins.
They have lacked efficiency in the running game during those three games, with performances of 61 yards against the Titans, 30 yards against the Vikings, and an improved 155 yards against the Raiders.
They did get 51 of those 155 yards on a Derius Davis run on the second play of the game.
The three games combined barely exceed the 233 rushing yards they got in week one against the Dolphins. They could get back to that Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
Ekeler practiced on Tuesday afternoon and said he feels better than before the bye week.
“I felt like probably could have played during the bye week if I had a game then,” Ekeler said. “Was fortunate enough to have the bye week for next week.”
He was limited all week leading up to the game against the Raiders and then listed as doubtful to play. He didn’t suit up but said if it were the final game of the season and the team needed him, he would have played.
“Did a couple of workouts during the bye week here,” Ekeler said. “Felt really good and, as a result, was out there on the field today.”
The week leading up to the Raiders, Ekeler mentioned that he could run straight but had trouble moving laterally, which he mentioned was a thing of the past.
So, will be play on Monday?
“Yeah, for sure,” Ekeler said.
What if he had to put it into a percentage?
“99%,” Ekeler said.
Monday’s game against Dallas could be the perfect game to jump-start the running game. The Cowboys defense has given up 222 rushing yards against the Cardinals and 170 against the 49ers—both of them losses.
The Chargers have improved their offense line every year that Brandon Staley has been the head coach. This version is the best they have had in recent memory, even with center Corey Linsley being out.
Ekeler coming back means they will be able to use him in both the run and pass game, which has also been lacking in his absence—the threat he presents on offense.
This also helps Joshua Kelley, who had a decent game against the Raiders with 65 yards. In week one, Kelley added 91 rushing yards and a touchdown, along with Ekeler’s 117 yards and a touchdown.
If Ekeler and Kelley have a similar performance against Dallas, that will help take pressure off quarterback Justin Herbert and the rest of the offense.
Ekeler will continue preparing this week and ramping up his work on the practice field. The important part is that he should be ready for Dallas, mainly because of the week off.
“Bye week was a blessing,” Ekeler said.