The Los Angeles Chargers offense could get a big boost on Sunday as star running back Austin Ekeler is expected to play, head coach Brandon Staley told the media on Friday.
"Yes," Staley said when asked if he expected Ekeler to suit up. "He looked good out there today. Optimistic, for sure."
Ekeler was a non-participant in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury. He was able to return to the practice field on Friday, albeit in a limited fashion.
The 26-year-old is officially being ruled as questionable for Sunday's game, according to the league's injury report that was released on Friday.
"We'll see how it goes when we get there," Staley said. "Obviously, we have to fly and all that."
Although Ekeler's status has been up in the air throughout the week, Washington has been preparing for the Chargers' scheme as a whole, rather than the running back's specific skill set.
“You pay attention who they have on their roster, most certainly, but you game plan what they do, and that's really kind of how we looked at things," Rivera said.
If Ekeler is unable to play, Staley said that running backs Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley would "split the load" for the Chargers.
Ekeler has played a pivotal role in the Chargers' offense the past two seasons, with 2020 the first year he served as Los Angeles' No. 1 running back. In 2019, Ekeler began the season as the starter with Melvin Gordon holding out and still managed to have a significant role in the offense even when Gordon returned.
Both Los Angeles and Washington enter Week 1 relatively healthy, but the Burgundy and Gold will be missing speedy wideout Curtis Samuel after the team placed him on the short-term Injured Reserve on Friday.
"We want to create this opportunity to take advantage of it and really just let [Samuel] focus on getting healthy before he has to start worrying about playing," Rivera said Friday.