Everyone loves a good duo in sports.
In the football world, pairings such as Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes come to mind. These tag-teams either did, or currently still are, ruling their time in the NFL.
A good pairing isn’t always enough to carry a team to the promised land alone, but history tells us it sure gives your team a boost, nonetheless. In that spirit, CBS Sports NFL analyst Jared Dubin recently went about ranking his top 10 duos in the NFL ahead of the 2023 season and like me, you knew there just had to be a pair of Chargers on the list.
Fortunately, we were right.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Austin Ekeler were ranked as the 10th-best duo in the NFL and were the only pairing ranked that included a team’s passer and lead ball carrier. They were also one of seven duos from the AFC as the conference dominated the rankings over the NFC.
“The Chargers are probably hoping that Herbert throws the ball to Ekeler a little bit less often this season,” says Dubin. “They want to start pushing the ball downfield with greater regularity, and rightfully so. But coming off a season in which he ran for 915 yards and 13 touchdowns while also catching 107 passes for 722 yards and seven scores, it’s clear that Ekeler is the focal point of the team’s offense in the run and pass game. Herbert is already one of the league’s best quarterbacks, able to both minimize mistakes and make big plays — though he needs to be willing to take more risks to do the latter more often. Still, his ability to avoid both sacks and interceptions by finding Ekeler late in the down makes things so much easier on an offense than they could be, and the synergy the two players have quickly developed is unrivaled among quarterback-running back duos.
Herbert experienced a down year plagued by a ho-hum offense that went cold far too often throughout the 2023 season. The lack of productivity and playoff collapse inevitably led to the firing of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day, opening the door for both Kellen Moore and Doug Nussmeier as replacements. Despite the shortcomings, Ekeler still managed to set a new career high and Chargers franchise record for a running back with 107 receptions.
As Dubin touches on above, the chemistry between Herbert and Ekeler has been strong ever since they first took the field together in week two of the 2020 season. In all, the two have combined to score 15 touchdowns together, including a career-high eight during the 2021 campaign. A year ago, the two authored several memorable plays throughout the year, including some massive fourth-down conversions in pivotal games.
With the 2023 season potentially being the last go-round for this duo, I would expect nothing less than for each of them to try and end their time together on the highest note possible.
If you’re curious about the rest of the top 10, you can read about it all here. Afterwards, let me know what you all think of their ranking below!