Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler played in just 10 games in 2020, seeing his production dwindle from 1,550 scrimmage yards in 2019 to 933 last season.
Now healthy and entering a new offense under coordinator Joe Lombardi, Ekeler told SiriusXM NFL Radio he views himself as a chess piece the OC can use, similar to how the Saints get the ball to Alvin Kamara.
"I think that's something that I've learned about Joe coming in like this man is going to get his playmakers in space and situations where they can be successful," Ekeler said. "I think you see that as far as the running back position with Kamara with the Saints. They would give him the ball any way they could, and he was making plays. And it just depends on me, right? As far as, hey, if coach is going to trust me with the ball, my hands are going to make sure I make it work, make him right. If I don't do that, we got a lot of other talent on the team too. So I like it, 'cause it's putting the pressure on me. I love that 'cause now I'm betting on myself to go out there and make plays. I have no doubt about that."
One of the biggest under-the-radar questions of the offseason is the impact Lombardi will have on a Chargers offense that has the potential to be explosive. Quarterback Justin Herbert enjoyed an otherworldly rookie season. Will the new OC nurture and grow the young signal-caller, or will the operation grind to a halt?
The backfield in L.A. remains roughly the same as last season, with the do-it-all Ekeler leading the way ahead of Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley. The club did add Larry Rountree III in the sixth round of the draft. It's a diverse backfield, but Ekeler fits best with how Lombardi prefers to use his backs, particularly in the passing game.
If Ekeler stays healthy, we'd expect him to return to his 1,200-plus scrimmage-yard ways.