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DJ's Mailbag: 'Complete Back' Austin Ekeler Brings Added Dimension to Offense

The Los Angeles Chargers play the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, October 4, 2021 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.
The Los Angeles Chargers play the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, October 4, 2021 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. [FINAL SCORE: LAC 28 - LV 14]

Each week during the season, Chargers radio analyst Daniel Jeremiah will answer mailbag questions. Below is the Week 5 installment:

What did you make of the Chargers' defensive performance specifically in the first half?

"That was dominant, to me never allowing the quarterback to get comfortable. Making him move off the spot and I thought really tackling well for the most part, very few missed tackles in this game which were huge. So, I thought it was a pretty dominating performance."

How impressive was Jared Cook's and the rest of the tight end group's performance on Monday night?

"Yeah, it was a big tight end, running back game. I think Jared Cook kind of reminded everybody he's a pretty special talent even at his age right now. He's still playing at a very high level, there's very few guys that have his combination of size and speed at that position. We saw one of them across the field in Darren Waller in that game and I thought [Cook] stepped up and matched what Waller did for the Chargers, so that was a bigtime performance for him. Not only making plays but key downs, gotta have it downs, and he was able to win his one-on-one's and go up and make plays."

How have Derwin James and Nasir Adderley gelled together through the first quarter of the season?

"I think you're continuing to see Nas takes steps and get better and better. He's given up a couple plays down in the redzone where he's just been outsized. We saw it in the Washington game, we saw it in the Raider game against two really good tight ends, but he is playing fast and aggressive, and I think he's somebody that you can see the confidence continue to grow. Derwin's just doing Derwin James things on a weekly basis, variety is the spice of life and that's the case with Derwin James you don't know what you're gonna get in terms of where he's gonna line up, what his assignment's gonna be, you just know at the end of that play he's gonna make something happen."

What's the key to the beating the Browns on Sunday?

"I think you gotta put the ball in Baker Mayfield's hands. This is a good team, they are at their best when they can grind it out, beat you up, up front with that really good offensive line and [Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb]. If you can win some third and longs and that's where I think the advantage swings in the Chargers' favor. If they're constantly sitting at 2nd-and-1, 2nd-and-2, 3rd-and-1, 3rd-and-2 that's how they're kind of designed to play, so you gotta keep them off schedule."

Are you surprised by the Chargers' 3-1 start, especially beating back-to-back divisional opponents?

"Not really, I just think when you look at the talent and the health that's been the thing, right? You've got the talent; now can you be healthy? They've been able to maintain pretty good health here through the early portion of the season. There's just good players everywhere, when you have a superstar quarterback like Justin Herbert and you surround him with a lot of help and the offensive line has improved, Derwin James and Joey Bosa are healthy, you're gonna win a lot of football games."

What do you think of Brandon Staley's aggressiveness on fourth down early on in the season?

"I think it's aggressive, I don't think it's reckless, there's a line there. He said as much, he likes the play call he likes the matchup he gets, and he feels like it's in their favor, he's gonna go for it. I think it's thought out, I don't think it's just reckless aggression, I think it's just really, really smart football and believing in yours guys and believing in the matchups that you get on a weekly basis. I give him a lot of credit for just believing in what he has and just making it happen."

Is there an unsung player that not many people are talking about that has played really well?

"If you watch the tape from last week specifically, Linval Joseph was pretty dominant. He is still a unique player with his size and power that he has inside. Be able to knock people back, he's given some pass rush as well which is just an added bonus because he's such a dominant run defender. When you're gonna play with some of these light boxes that's a hugely important position and he's been outstanding."

How dangerous can this Chargers' offense be especially with the way Austin Ekeler has performed over the last three weeks?

"I think this is a great example when you come off of a game where you don't have to force the ball to those wideouts and Austin Ekeler can take a game over, you've got tight ends that can get involved. It's a pretty complete offense and I think Austin's reminding people that there's nothing he can not do. In terms of running with power inside the tackles, the speed to get to the perimeter and the matchup nightmare he is in the passing game. He's a complete back, it was fun to watch."

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