Austin Ekeler Says Los Angeles Chargers ‘Offensive Philosophy’ And ‘Injuries’ Responsible For His 2023 Performance

Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

According to a report from ESPN’s Washington Commanders staff writer, John Keim via Twitter, former Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said part of ‘his issues last season stemmed from ankle injuries as well as a different offensive philosophy.’ That the ‘Chargers wanted more downfield throws and downhill runs’ that ‘didn’t fit his play style.’

Austin Ekeler In The Los Angeles Chargers Offense

Ekeler did sustain an ankle injury in Week 1 against the Cowboys that forced him to miss three games last season. He could also be alluding to the injuries along he offensive line and to Justin Herbert.

The Chargers did make a pretty substantial change at offensive coordinator, going from Joe Lombardi to Kellen Moore.

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers
Nov 26, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) is tackled by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen (6) during the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of his usage, there wasn’t a significant change in his carries per game. He has hovered around 12 per game over the last three seasons. His target share did drop from 2022 to 2023 going from 7.5 targets per game to 5.4 per game, but the 2023 number is commensurate with his career numbers of 5.3 targets per game.

Kellen Moore did emphasize throwing more deep passes in his play calling. Justin Herbert’s average depth of target increased by 1.3 yards and he attempted more throws throws deep down the field. In 2022, 9.8 percent of his passes traveled more than 20 yards down the field. Last season, 12.1 percent traveled that far. But that doesn’t account for the precipitous decline in productivity from 2021 and 2022 to 2023.

The Chargers had him running to the same places from the same schemes and catching the ball at the same spots, but his yards per carry and his yards per route run dropped significantly.

The biggest culprit to his statistical decline could be the injuries to the offensive line. In 2021 and 22 he was given 2.3 and 2.6 yards before contact. In 2023, that was down to 1.8. In that time his yards after contact have been steadier, but have declined in every year since joining the team, going from 3.3 yards in 2018 to 1.7 yards in 2023.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Jan 7, 2024; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports