Wednesday Roundup: Ekeler Staying Focused and ‘Next Man Up’ vs. Lions

Running back Austin Ekeler totaled 154 yards and three touchdowns Sunday vs. the Indianapolis Colts.
Running back Austin Ekeler totaled 154 yards and three touchdowns Sunday vs. the Indianapolis Colts.

Head coach Anthony Lynn addressed the media Wednesday, starting with tight end Hunter Henry, who suffered a knee injury Sunday and is without a timetable for return.

“He’s taking it tough but he’s doing fine,” said Lynn. “Hunter wants to be here with his teammates. Not being out there with them, he feels like he’s letting his teammates down, but he’s not.”

Henry suffered the injury late in the fourth quarter against the Colts, but returned to the field and made a 17-yard reception in overtime.

“He came back in and you never knew he was hurt, which says a lot about his toughness as a player no doubt about it,” said Lynn.

In addition to cornerback Trevor Williams being placed on injured reserve, the Chargers signed cornerback Dontae Johnson to provide additional depth at that position.

“Johnson was in San Francisco, one of [defensive coordinator] Gus [Bradley's] disciples," said Lynn. "So familiar terminology, similar scheme and it shouldn’t be hard for him to pick up and play right away.”

Johnson started all 16 games in 2017 for San Francisco, recording 76 tackles (68 solo), seven passes defensed, two tackles for loss and a 50-yard pick-six.

Despite the injuries, center Mike Pouncey believes that his teammates will step up Sunday in Detroit.

“When you play in the NFL long enough you know the mentality is next man up -- this league doesn't wait on anybody," he said. "We’re going to have to have guys step up in the meantime and we have the depth to do that.”

“I give the guys in the locker room a lot of credit,” Lynn said. “It’s a next man up mentality all along. No complaining, no excuses -- just go get it done.”

Ekeler staying focused

Running back Austin Ekeler has understandably garnered national media attention after recording 95 receiving yards, 58 rushing yards, and three touchdowns last Sunday against the Colts. However, Ekeler isn’t concerned with the increase in attention -- he wants to remain focused on his game.

“I was talking with ‘Fredo (running backs coach Alfredo Roberts) and he was telling me, ‘You have that cologne on for a little bit, but it's going to fade. Don’t drink it. You can wear it, that’s fine, but it’s poison. It might kill you.’ I’m just keeping my [blinders] on and focusing on my game with the Chargers.”

Looking ahead to the Lions

This Sunday the Chargers take on an unfamiliar opponent in the Detroit Lions. The Chargers last faced off against Detroit in 2015, and last traveled to Ford Field in 2011.

“It’s different, you’re not as familiar with the personnel, scheme-wise,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “They’re similar to New England, being that their head coach was there for a long time, but then again, they do some things totally different as well.”

When asked about what he saw from the Lions in Week 1, Lynn said he was impressed.

“That team to me looks like it's taken the next step,” he said. “They have a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball and obviously you have a stud quarterback and two star receivers, a committee in the backfield with [Lions RBs Kerryon Johnson and] C.J. Anderson. Plus we are playing their home opener, so it's going to be loud, it's going to be crazy, it's going to be exciting -- but we are going to have our hands full and we are getting ready right now.”

Lynn referenced his familiarity to the Lions’ coaching staff, as some of them had been in the same division throughout his time in the AFC East. Despite this familiarity, Lynn attests that he can’t start to overthink things.

“The more you know about the guys and the more that you may have to prepare for, you end up with a jack-of-all-trades but a master of nothing on Sunday. It can backfire on you because you know those guys very well."

Lions head coach Matt Patricia speaks about the Chargers

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia spoke to the media on Wednesday about what he expects to see from Rivers and the rest of the offense during their home opener on Sunday.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Philip Rivers,” said Patricia. “We’ve had some great battles over the years even going back to an AFC Championship game that he played basically on one leg. He can change plays at the line of scrimmage and has complete control over the offensive system to put his team in the best place possible.”

Patricia also mentioned that the chemistry between Rivers and wide receiver Keenan Allen will be a big test for his defense. Despite not playing in the preseason, Rivers successfully found Keenan Allen for eight catches totaling 123 receiving yards in Week 1.

“I think he and Keenan Allen have a connection and trust between the two of them," Patricia said. "There are certain plays on tape that look like tight coverage and Rivers trusts him and puts the ball in a place where only Keenan Allen can get it. The chemistry that they have is really what makes it so dynamic.”

On Wednesday's episode of Playmakers, Chargers team reporter Hayley Elwood spoke with NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund, who expects Allen to put up a big performance against the Lions.

When asked about the Chargers defense, Patricia highlighted defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram as players who could cause difficulties for his offensive line in protecting Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“It will be a tremendous challenge for us to face both of those guys," Patricia said. "They have incredible power, speed, and a relentless pursuit of the quarterback."

Chargers at Lions kicks off at 10:00 a.m. PST on CBS.

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