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Chargers Training Camp: Austin Ekeler talks increased trust w/ Joe Lombardi, bigger bodies on defense

The team’s RB1 had plenty to say after Friday’s practice.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Following the third day of training camp practice, running back Austin Ekeler spoke to the media for the first time, along with Brandon Staley and defensive tackle Austin Johnson.

As always, the team’s RB1 had plenty to say about a plethora of topics, including practicing against the new additions to the defense, the limit on full-padded practices, and what he’s seen thus far from the competition amongst the backs behind him on the depth chart.

Below are some transcribed highlights. Enjoy!

On how the energy felt during the third practice of training camp:

“I think it’s how you’d expected day three to go. A little bit of thinking. We’re starting to pick up our intensity as we’re getting more familiar and back to the rhythm of football. Just getting back on our feet. It takes a little bit. The intensity today was the highest its’ been so that’s good. It means people are starting to understand. People are starting to feel like themselves again so the competition is rising and I’m looking forward to getting the pads on.”

On if he’d prefer more time in full pads/full-speed practices:

“I mean, there’s an aspect where you’d like to be taken to the ground and have, like, real-life football. I think that’s what the preseason is kind’ve for, for the most part, especially for the younger guys just because you can never really simulate that aspect of breaking tackles. Did he get me? Did he not? So there’s that aspect you can’t get around. I would like to, but I understand the liability aspect of that and pushing that off as far as we can so for now, we’ll play everything up until the thud.”

On what he’s seen from the rest of the running back room:

“You know, it’s been competitive. These guys are on it as far as the mental part. Now it just comes down to a few things, obviously continuing to progress in the offense, but then it’s going to come down to special teams, as well. I remember that being a part of the reason I made the team and stay on the team (during) my younger years was my value on special teams. It’s the more that you can bring to the table as far as you as a player, not only on offense but also on special teams, especially if you’re in that third spot, that’s going to make the difference. As far a on offense, they all have their different styles and they do them very well. So, I think they’ll succeed at the running back spot in their own way but then it comes down to that other value on special teams.”

On how he sees the new defensive additions making the offense better during training camp:

“Yeah, we already got (Khalil) Mack out here. He’s obviously one of the bigger names we brought in and he’s already being disruptive. I’m figuring out his play style, you know, he’s going to jump around, try to get inside our tackles and our tight ends and set an edge on you really quick. So we’re going to have to have a plan to deal with him which we’re starting to ‘coordinate’. But yeah, just seeing what our defense has turned into going from Anthony Lynn, under that coaching, to what we got with Brandon Staley. We’ve got a lot bigger bodies in the box. So I like to see that too because as a runner, I’m thinking ‘Man, we’ve got a lot of people in here. There’s a lot of big bodies.’ It’s a bit tougher on the run game in my opinion so I’m excited to see how that plays out.”

On how he’d feel if one of the other running backs on the roster pushed him for playing time:

“I mean, it’s my job to add as much value as I can, not only at the running back spot but in the slot and kind’ve all over the field. I think that’s where I have a lot of value in my game. You can pretty much put me wherever and I’ll have some type of value. Whether you want me running deep down the field with speed, whether you want me running across the middle, pr whether you want to hand the ball to me, throw the ball to me, have me as a decoy going one way for a screen-type of thing. I’m going to be efficient wherever you put me. So, if we got a guy who’s shown that he’s a dominant runner (who) can pound the rock and he’s really strong at that — maybe stronger than I am — it’s like, we can still see him but I still see myself being on the field at the same time.”

On if he has more freedom on the field in year two under offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi:

“I think it’s a trust from three different people. You know, myself, jut being able to know that I can do more as far as making adjustments on the fly. It’s a trust in Justin (Herbert) to trust me that I’ll actually understand and be on the same page with him mentally, what he’s trying to do. And it’s a trust in Joe to actually be able to call certain things where I can have some types of options. I think you see that a lot with Keenan (Allen) and Justin, himself, where to start to understand and maybe be able to change routes now. You know, a little bit more comfortably and actually understand, ‘Okay, we’re getting a look where what we had wasn’t the best opportunity. Hey, let’s check it to this.’ That’s not something that’s called in the huddle. That’s something that’s straight-up football recognition.”