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Chargers Trusting Austin Ekeler's Athleticism and Versatility

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Not only has running back Austin Ekeler been one of the NFL's most productive offensive weapons through the first seven weeks of the season, but no matter where he's positioned at the line of scrimmage, even if it's unfamiliar, Ekeler is always ready to make a play.

What last week's game against the Titans revealed was that Ekeler can line up at the wide receiver position and catch opposing defenses off guard. The running back finished Sunday's game with seven receptions for 118 yards receiving, including a 41-yard touchdown reception, the longest of his career.

"For me in the past few weeks, you see me, I'm not making any huge moves or anything," Ekeler said. "It's just getting people off of their mark, you know? I'm a little smaller (and) more compact, so I can change direction a little faster than these linebackers can, so it's not flashy, but it's effective."

Changing direction and speeds in order to create space between himself and the secondary is what Ekeler calls "playing the game within the game," something he thought he executed well on his touchdown reception.

Quarterback Philip Rivers also recalled that same play and was impressed with the versatility shown by the running back.

"You can say he's a running back playing receiver, (or) you can say he's a receiver playing running back. I think he has that much ability," Rivers said.

Ekeler and Rivers can often be seen pregame playing catch with each other, something Ekeler attests has ingrained catching passes into his routine.

In addition to Rivers' touchdown pass to Ekeler, the pair connected for a five-step slant route in last week's game, a route Ekeler says he'd never run in any game at any level.

"It was new," Ekeler said. "But we're all pretty good athletes, so we just make it work."

Ekeler's athleticism and trust from the Chargers' coaching staff has led him to 49 receptions, a total which is tied for third in the league with Texans' Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Additionally, Ekeler's ability to line up and produce out wide and in the backfield has led the running back to the sixth-most all-purpose yards in the NFL.

"I'll expand if (my coaches) allow me to," Ekeler said. "As long as I keep making the plays they give me, I think you'll see me get more routes."

The Chargers' creativity on offense is something Ekeler attests has been an integral part of the team's offensive philosophy all season. However, if the Chargers want to turn their creativity into wins, Ekeler mentioned that he personally has room to grow and that team-wide "consistency" will need to be take precedence this Sunday against the Bears.

"TD (Thomas Davis) talked to us (after last week's game) and said, 'I've been on great teams, but the thing is that we need to practice to be consistent'," Ekeler said. "That's going to be my emphasis of the day -- making sure I finish everything, hitting my points, and trying to make my guy miss downfield."

Ekeler and the Chargers kick off against the Bears from Soldier Field at 10 a.m. PT on FOX.

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