Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has missed the last two games with an injury. Fortunately for the Chargers’ offense and fantasy managers, it appears the NFL star could return in the near future.
Late in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, Ekeler suffered an ankle injury. While he racked up 164 scrimmage yards on 20 touches with two touchdowns, he only played 51 percent of the snaps and the team was concerned about the injury coming out of the game.
- Austin Ekeler career stats: 3,844 rushing yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 3,495 receiving yards, 64 total touchdowns
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Ekeler hasn’t returned to the practice field since. He was ruled out days in advance of the Chargers’ Week 2 matchup against the Tennessee Titans then failed to log any participation in practice the following week before missing Sunday’s game.
However, it appears things are headed in the right direction. After providing a positive update last Wednesday, sharing on the Yahoo Sports’ Ekeler’s Edge podcast with Matt Harmon that his ankle is healing nicely, there’s more positive news regarding a potential return.
During an appearance on NFL Game Day before Sunday’s games, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Ekeler is hoping to return in Week 4 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I am told it is a higher type of an ankle sprain for Austin Ekeler. He’s still considered week-to-week. I’m told Ekeler is hopeful he’ll be able to play next week against the Raiders. But with a Week 5 bye looming, they may decide to air on the side of caution.”Tom Pelissero on the status of Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler
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- Austin Ekeler contract: $9.1 million cap hit in 2023, 2024 free agent
Los Angeles likely doesn’t believe it needs Ekeler on the field to beat the Raiders in Week 4. However, its rushing attack has struggled since his injury.
Evaluating Los Angeles Chargers offense without Austin Ekeler
While the Chargers lost to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, their offense was outstanding. Los Angeles averaged 5.7 yards per play with a 60 percent third-down conversion rate.
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore also showed a strong commitment to a balanced offense, with Justin Herbert attempting 33 passes and the Chargers’ running backs combining for 32 carries turned into 208 rushing yards and two scores. However, backup running back Joshua Kelley hasn’t been nearly as effective since Ekeler’s departure.
After averaging 5.7 yards per carry in Week 1 and totaling 91 rushing yards, Los Angeles pushed Kelley into the featured role with Ekeler sidelined. In two matchups against the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings, he’s struggled.
- Joshua Kelley stats without Austin Ekeker: 51 rushing yards on 24 carries, 2.13 yards per attempt, zero touchdowns and 1 catch on 102 snaps
If Ekeler is sidelined in Week 4, Kelley would presumably remain the featured running back. However, Los Angeles would likely scale back its rushing attempts with Kelley limited to 12 or fewer and Herbert attempting 40-plus passes.
Keep an eye on the NFL injury report this week to monitor Ekeler’s status. While he wants to play, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Chargers don’t bring him back until Week 6.