2021 is in the rearview and 2022's offseason is here.
With that being said, we thought this would be a good time to check in with some people we don't hear from often: the Chargers position coaches.
A Conversation with the Chargers Position Coaches
Next up is running backs coach Derrick Foster.
Foster discussed how they can unlock more of Austin Ekeler's game, what he saw from the other running backs on the roster, and what needs to happen for the unit to find more consistency in 2022.
What was your take on working with this group of running backs this year?
Derrick Foster: First off, they were outstanding young men. I really enjoyed working with each one of them. They made me feel comfortable. We all got a chance to really know each other and that's one message that Brandon Staley preached this entire year: relationships. What we tried to do and what I tried to do with each one of those guys is develop a relationship early on with them. Once we did that, everything else was easier. It was easier to coach each one of them and know each one of them once we broke the ice with each other.
How did you break the ice? What is the key to getting those relationships going when you're all so new?
Foster: I think coming into a new situation, it's always important to share a piece of who you are, where you're from, and your background to open up to those guys first. When you build a relationship, you build trust, and that comes from communication and understanding. I think once you understand a person and you're able to communicate, I think you develop a respect where now you feel comfortable sharing certain things. I just opened up myself and where I was from, how I got to where I am now and things I believe in from a philosophy/football/life perspective-standpoint. And then I decided to ask those guys what's important to them? Once they let their guards down bit by bit, they opened up more. I told them, I'm an open book. If they have a question about anything, football or life, come ask me. That's what I'm here for.
So everyone knows Austin Ekeler's story, but this year, I think we learned that he still has that same mindset that he entered the league with in 2017.
Staley said he was really proud of how you and the staff maximized his role. How were you able to do that?
Foster: The biggest thing was him understanding the system and the offense because obviously, it was different from what he's been used to. We were able to see some things he was able to do on film before minicamp and training camp, but then once we were able to see it live and work with him, we were able to say, 'Okay, here's what we can do with him and here's some things we can do to maximize his potential.' Kudos to [offensive coordinator] Joe Lombardi because I thought he did a heck of a job. He and Frank Smith of just coming together collectively with the run and pass game and how he fits in certain concepts and certain schemes. The rest, Austin came in and studied it. He and I spent some time, whether it was one-on-one time or at practice or in the film room. If he had questions, he was never afraid to ask. And I think that's in his nature. He's a young man who wants to get it right. He's a perfectionist in everything he does. That's just a testament to his work ethic. Once he started to understand the offense, I think it became easier for him to make those plays you saw on Monday, Sunday, and Thursday night.