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How Kellen Moore Has Evaluated the Chargers Run Game So Far

Day 7

Below are three takeaways from Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, running back Austin Ekeler and defensive lineman Morgan Fox's media availability on Friday:

Moore assess run game so far

The Bolts work in the ground game has picked up quite a bit since the pads came on earlier this week.

The group was able to mix in some situational scenarios during Friday's practice, adding another layer as camp progresses.

And it's all been incredibly valuable as the team continues to try and improve in that area from a season ago under first-year Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore.

It's a process that Moore says takes some time after a long offseason of no contact, but he's liked what he's seen so far from the offense on the ground.

"It's been good," Moore said. "It's one of those things, you spend a long time during the offseason not in pads, so guys just have to get used to it. It's going to get better each and every day. You just have to be patient with it.

"You have to keep going at it. You have to keep giving us opportunities for it," Moore added. "I think it'll help in the long run."

It's hard to re-create the real in-game contact even with the pads on, but it is a step closer to working on key facets of the run game.

"The run game, in practice, is tough because you can't really get a sense of, 'Did you break that tackle?' Driving someone off of the ball is a lot different than when it's live," Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said. "As far as what we have going, I feel really good about it.

"It's still getting into a rhythm, getting the footwork down, but really can't tell, until we get some live reps, what our run game is going to be looking like," Ekeler added.

Moore added: "I think that the biggest thing is the process. 'Are we seeing it? Is our vision and alignment where it needs to be?' Certainly, the break-tackle and all of that stuff will come into play as we go. But I think that as long as the process is right, I think that's the main focus for us."

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With the team scrimmage Sunday and the first preseason game on the horizon, the Chargers run game will have a bit more to evaluate as the weeks progress.

And an area to watch will be the No. 2 running back spot, where Moore has high hopes for both Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller.

Both Kelley and Spiller have had their moments in team drills and 1-on-1's throughout the first couple padded practice sessions. It's something that Moore has taken notice of when evaluating the two, as he praised their play and talked about the value they provide to the room.

"Awesome job," Moore said. "Obviously, Austin is going to get the reps that he needs. The other guys, we've been trying to get them as many as we can. Both guys, I think, provide a very valuable role for us.

"We need depth in that position," Moore added. "You are going to need two, three running backs in a season. We certainly have visions for big roles for both of those guys, as well."

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Fox on the run defense

Just like the ground game is trying to improve heading into the regular season, the other side of the ball is looking to do just the same.

The defense has had their hands full going up against Moore's offense, but it's been a back-and-forth battle. The defense got the upper hand on Wednesday, but the offense fought right back Friday — just as it's been throughout camp up to this point.

Competing against the Bolts offense is something defensive lineman Morgan Fox posed as challenging but is helping the defense improve in areas on emphasis.

"It's tough," Fox said. "They do a lot of stuff that messes with certain rules, and they move around a lot, they let [QB Justin] Herbert throw his arm and do what they do and get the running backs open get them moving.

"They have great run game and mechanics," Fox added. "It's been a challenge every day, but it's a good challenge. Everyone says iron sharpens iron and we've definitely been getting better."

As Fox mentioned, the topic of run defense has been a point of emphasis throughout the early stages of camp.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and others have spoken about just how important improving in that area is going to be this season and what they're doing to attack it in camp.

And Fox echoed the sentiment Friday, as it's an area each member of the defense is looking to get better at in each facet.

"I think our dedication to improving it is definitely starting to show through," Fox said. "Guys are communicating really well when it comes to our adjustments in the run game, taking on the mentality of being more physical, being more sound and understanding where they fit within the defense.

"That has been a huge point of emphasis for everyone; understand where you fit in the scheme," Fox added. "I think guys have really emphasized and taken it as a point of pride to improve that."

Fox, who's now entering his second year with the Bolts, will line up alongside many of the same teammates he did last year.

With a lot of the cohesion already there, Fox hopes that they can use the late-season momentum and familiarity to improve and get to where they want to be.

"We picked it up pretty well towards the end of the season last year, we started playing a lot better in the run," Fox said. "I think now that guys are more comfortable in the system, more comfortable with each other, learning how to play off each other, who's going to be where; that we're able to play faster and communicate better to be where we're supposed to be."

Push-up competition arises in camp

The Bolts have had a little extra juice during recent practices.

"We have a little competition going on," Ekeler said. "If we score, then the defense was giving us push-ups. If they stopped us, then we have push-ups.

"We got them today," Ekeler added. "We had it twice today, though."

The added stipulation among the players has made an appearance over the past couple of practices, with the defense coming out on top on Wednesday.

But it was the offense that got the upper hand Friday, including during the 2-minute drill late in practice.

The push-ups originated from none other than safety Derwin James, Jr., who proposed the offer to the offense.

"I think [James] was like, 'Hey, if we stop you, you guys got 10.' [WR] Keenan [Allen] was like that, 'Bet.' There it was," Ekeler said.

The healthy nature of the competition has been something the team has enjoyed, as it adds another fun layer — and even adds an extra bit of motivation in the process.

"Yeah, we're just trying to make ways to make practice even more fun," Ekeler said. "We're out here compete for a job, but also want to make sure that we're having a good time doing it.

"I feel like when you feel good, whatever the motivation is, it just helps you come out here and just execute and actually emphasize the details and things like that and make sure you're doing your job," Ekeler added.

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