A massive concern cloud currently permeates Twitter and our Discord. For whatever reason, and I’m doing my best Mugatu impression here, Austin Ekeler scares people and almost every Ekeler owner feels like they’re in panic mode. I’m not entirely sure why, and I am imploring you to please go out and buy Austin Ekeler.
If you look at Ekeler’s stat line for week one, something quickly jumps off the page: Austin Ekeler had one target for one catch and three yards. He also didn’t score any touchdowns, while rookie Joshua Kelley had a rushing touchdown and out-carried Austin Ekeler at the goal line. Well, that touchdown run that Kelley came from five yards out, which should be prime Austin Ekeler territory, right? We should all panic because Ekeler is the big side of a platoon, right?
Overall, Kelley looked… fine. He looked great on a 26-yard run, and only five of his twelve runs went for fewer than four yards. Kelley had four red-zone carries (more than Ekeler), and ended up with that rushing touchdown I mentioned. These stats put everyone in a major tizzy. I’m here to tell you to chill out and relax. Let’s frame this a different way, shall we?
Austin Ekeler had 20 touches on Sunday, and a career-high 19 carries. He turned in 84 yards on those 19 carries (4.42 yards per carry). Austin Ekeler had three red zone carries to Joshua Kelley’s four. One of Joshua Kelley’s rushes (the touchdown) came on the back of two good Austin Ekeler runs that took the Chargers from the 21 to the 5 in two downs. Unfortunately, these back-to-back runs ended in big hits. Who’s ready for a conspiracy theory? Ekeler likely got the wind knocked out of him on the second run when all of LT Bryan Bulaga’s weight fell directly on Ekeler’s stomach, necessitating the Kelley carry.
If Ekeler had run out of bounds and then gotten the five-yard touchdown run, would we be panicking? No, probably not. Let’s not forget that Austin Ekeler is, at worst, a top-five receiving back in the league. The Chargers ran him as a wide receiver for a game last year, even. He’s very good. He didn’t get targets this game: is it more likely that this trend continues in a game they barely won against a team that picked #1 overall last year, or is it more likely Anthony Lynn starts making sure Tyrod Taylor gives the ball to his playmakers? I’m going to go with the second.
The Absurdity Check
Austin Ekeler is very good, and The Discourse around him is mostly hysterics. Not only do I like Ekeler for the rest of the season, but I think that this is probably the best opportunity to buy on Ekeler: when everyone is panicked. He’s one of the best running back receivers in the league, and he had 19 carries yesterday. He was a top-ten running back in the second half of 2019 with Melvin Gordon around, and we always knew this would be a shared backfield.
Smash and grab Austin Ekeler before the owner sobers up from Ekeler’s disastrous 87-yard performance.