Chargers RB Austin Ekeler doubtful for Sunday vs. Titans: What this means for L.A.’s run game

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans with an ankle injury. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Ekeler is not expected to travel with the team to Nashville for the Week 2 matchup, according to a team source.
  • He left L.A.’s 36-34 Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins late in the fourth quarter after rushing for 117 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
  • The 28-year-old back didn’t practice for a third straight day Friday before landing his doubtful designation.
  • Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa is also listed as questionable with a hamstring injury and was limited in practice Friday.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

When did the injury occur?

Ekeler appeared to first injure his right ankle in the third quarter Sunday, after being dragged down from behind by Dolphins edge rusher Jaelan Phillips. He played six more snaps in the game but was noticeably limping, including on a wheel route up the left sideline with about seven minutes left in regulation. Ekeler was also testing out that right leg in between series on the sideline.

He was not on the field for the final failed two-minute drill. Ekeler was then not on the field for any of the portions of practice open to media this week, on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Coach Brandon Staley was asked Friday if Ekeler is dealing with a high ankle sprain.

“Just an ankle sprain,” Staley replied. — Popper

What this means for Chargers’ run game

This is now Joshua Kelley’s moment. He will be the starter and primary back Sunday against the Titans, who led the league in rush defense last year by EPA per rush attempt, according to TruMedia. Tennessee held the Saints to 2.6 yards per carry in a Week 1 loss.

In theory, the Titans are more susceptible to the pass. They gave up 305 yards to Derek Carr. And they will be without two starters in the secondary in safety Amani Hooker (concussion) and cornerback Kristian Fulton (hamstring). The Chargers, though, are coming off a 234-yard rushing performance against the Dolphins.

Staley is committed to running the ball this season, and Kelley should get his opportunities, at least early in the game. — Popper

Where should fantasy managers turn?

There is only one clear move with the Chargers, and that’s to start Kelley if you picked him up (or if he’s still available).

The Titans’ run defense is a poor matchup, but volume is on Kelley’s side, putting him in the mid-RB2 conversation with the likes of Miles Sanders, Dameon Pierce, etc. If Kelley isn’t available, Zack Moss has been cleared and is a low-ceiling/high-floor replacement while Kyren Williams is a boom/bust option to take over for Cam Akers. — Ciely

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(Photo: Jayne Kamin / USA Today)

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