Chargers’ Austin Ekeler feels healthy, but his left leg still isn’t right
The Chargers, as with nearly every football team, typically seek a balanced offensive attack.
For running back Austin Ekeler, the notion of being balanced Sunday against New England is particularly real.
“My right leg is on point,” he explained Friday. “My left leg ... a little disconnect with my brain.”
Ekeler is set to play his second game after recovering from a significant hamstring injury that cost him seven weeks. He pronounced himself fully healthy and said he is “100% confident” in the hamstring he tore in a Week 4 loss at Tampa Bay.
But Ekeler indicated he won’t feel completely himself until his left leg catches up to his right leg. He returned last weekend against Buffalo, carrying 14 times for 44 yards and catching 11 passes for 85 yards in the 27-17 road loss.
“There were a couple times when I felt I was just off balance a little bit,” Ekeler said. “I’m sure that will come back. I’m totally healed now.”
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The 25 touches against the Bills were a game-high on a day when Ekeler played a career-high 60 snaps.
Coach Anthony Lynn later admitted the Chargers relied too much on their No. 1 running back in his return from a soft-tissue injury.
The Patriots have allowed more than 27 points just once in nine games, but their defense ranks 21st against the run. Ekeler said their scheme suggests the Chargers will be able to move the ball on the ground.
“It fits well with my play style because I’m good at setting people [up] and then just one cut and running the other way,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to running the ball this game.”
Among the primary New England defenders trying to stop Ekeler will be safety Adrian Phillips, who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Chargers.
Phillips, an All-Pro in 2018, signed with the Patriots as a free agent in March. He has been playing a career-high number of defensive snaps this season.
“The one thing about A.P. — he’s always been a good tackler,” Ekeler said. “It’s going to be a fun challenge trying to make him miss.”
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During his time with the Chargers, Phillips established himself as a leader, especially on the field, where he was a steadying influence who could ensure everybody was in position.
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“Adrian is a tremendous person,” Lynn said. ‘He’s a really good football player, as well. His tangibles, his leadership, he’s like a coach on the field. Watching them play, you see him doing all the things that he did here. Yeah, we miss that type of player. You’re going to lose guys every year in free agency. That’s just the way it goes.”
Linebacker Denzel Perryman (back) is doubtful for Sunday, and four players — cornerback Casey Hayward (groin), defensive end Uchenna Nwosu (chest), running back Kalen Ballage (ankle) and wide receiver Joe Reed (ribs) — are questionable.
The Chargers had seven other players on their injury report during the week but all were removed Friday.
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Lynn suggested linebacker Kyzir White could come off the COVID-19 reserve list in time to play.
New England officially listed 12 players as questionable, including quarterback Cam Newton. At least one media report indicated Newton would play.
Quarterback Justin Herbert won his second consecutive offensive rookie of the month award Friday. He is the heavy favorite to be the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. … Herbert has six 300-yard passing games, two short of tying the single-season franchise record shared by Philip Rivers and Dan Fouts. … Wide receiver Keenan Allen leads the NFL with 85 receptions and has a touchdown catch in five straight games. … The Chargers signed former UCLA kicker JJ Molson to their practice squad. … New England is making its first trip to Los Angeles since 1992. The Patriots will remain in Southern California after the game in advance of playing the Rams at SoFi Stadium on Thursday. … Newton is coming off a career-low 23.6 passer rating in a victory over Arizona. … Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson has six interceptions, the same number the Chargers have.
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