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10 Things to Watch: Austin Ekeler's Encore

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With training camp on the horizon, we'll preview 10 of the most intriguing storylines to watch for when the Bolts kick things off on July 28.

Austin Ekeler took the NFL by storm last year, emerging out of obscurity as the ideal complement to Melvin Gordon.

The undrafted free agent out of Western State had 47 carries for 260 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He also earned Philip Rivers' trust, catching 27 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns, including three of at least 20 yards. Having played sporadically the first month of the season, Ekeler fell just shy of the threshold to qualify among the league's leaders. Had he done so, his 10.3 yards per catch would have ranked third among all running backs, right between Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara.

Thus, it's only natural to wonder what Ekeler has up his sleeve in year two.

Chargers fans will be happy to hear that despite his success in 2017, the 22-year-old still has a big chip on his shoulder. If you think he's grown complacent, then you simply don't know Austin Ekeler.

"You can never relax in this league," he said during the offseason program. "Never! It is the coaches' job to find better players to come in and replace us. They want to get the best players. So, it's my job as a player to keep my spot. I'm absolutely out here as a player to prove myself again. I have played (well), and that is an advantage, but that doesn't mean anything now. That was last year. This is a new year."

Despite being 22 years old, Ekeler is the second most experienced running back on the Bolts' roster. Thus, the Chargers need him to take another step forward in his development heading into 2018. The good news is Ekeler believes he's in position to do just that now that he has one full year under his belt.

"Having played last year, coming in, it was a quick turnaround after signing," he said. "Then it was going straight into the playbook. Last year was trying to think about what is the play. Now it's more about the fundamentals and why it works this way. Just deepening my understanding of the playbook and getting more out of it. So when I'm analyzing film, I can see why this is happening instead of just thinking about what is going to happen."

MORE THINGS TO WATCH

The Chargers' 2018 training camp schedule is official, so mark your calendars to watch the Bolts prepare for the upcoming season! The team will hold 14 practices open to the public between July 28 and August 23. For more information, please visitwww.chargers.com/camp.

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