COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler and linebacker Eric Kendricks are doubtful to play at the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, while outside linebacker Joey Bosa is questionable.
All three players were injured in the season-opening 36-34 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Ekeler hurt an ankle, and Kendricks and Bosa each suffered hamstring injuries.
Ekeler ran for 117 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and had 47 yards receiving, but he did not play on the Chargers’ final possession. Coach Brandon Staley said Ekeler’s injury is not a high ankle sprain.
Joshua Kelley, who had 91 yards rushing and a touchdown on 16 carries, will start if Ekeler doesn’t play.
“So, my mentality is I’m going to dominate and take every possession, every rep to the best of my ability,” Kelley said Friday.
Elijah Dotson, a rookie undrafted free agent, and Isaiah Spiller, a second-year back who was inactive Sunday, are set to back up Kelley. The Chargers also signed Jaret Patterson, who ran for 344 yards and two touchdowns the past two seasons for the Washington Commanders, to their practice squad on Wednesday.
“I feel like our [running backs] coach [Derrick Foster] said it,” Kelley said. “He’s like, ‘Hey, we guys need you to roll,’ and we got to answer the call.”
The loss of Kendricks will test the Chargers’ run defense, which allowed 70 yards on 20 carries to the Dolphins.
Kendricks, who made seven tackles and had one pass defended in his Chargers debut after playing his first eight seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, was signed in free agency to help stabilize a group that allowed an NFL-worst 5.42 yards per carry in 2022.
Titans star Derrick Henry had 63 yards rushing on 15 carries and also caught two passes for 56 yards in a 16-15 loss at the New Orleans Saints.
If Kendricks cannot play, linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. will call plays on defense.
The injury to Kendricks leaves the Chargers short-handed at inside linebacker. Rookie third-round draft pick Daiyan Henley is listed as doubtful because of a hamstring injury and expected to miss his second straight game, leaving Nick Niemann and Amen Ogbongbemiga are expected to take Kendricks’ place next to Murray.
“Yeah, I mean, certainly the group is going to have to pick up for Eric,” Staley said. “And it will be a great opportunity for those young guys.”
Bosa’s absence comes after he missed 12 games last season because of a groin injury that required surgery. He had 2.5 sacks in five games, both career lows, after reaching double-digit sacks in four of his first six seasons.
Bosa was limited in practice Friday, working out on his own with a trainer off to the side during the portion open to the media.
“It’ll be a game-time decision,” Staley said. “He was able to do some stuff out there on the field today.”
Bosa had one tackle and finished with a 21.1% pass rush win rate on 39 snaps, according to TruMedia data. The Chargers did not sack Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday. The 466 yards passing allowed was the most in franchise history.