football-player football-score football-helmet football-ball Accuracy Arm-Strength Balance Ball-Security Ball-Skills Big-Play-Ability Block-Deconstruction Competitive-Toughness Core-Functional-Strength Decision-Making Discipline Durability Effort-Motor Elusivness Explosiveness Football-IQ Footwork Functional-Athleticism Hand-Counters Hand-Power Hand-Technique Hands Lateral-Mobility Leadership Length Mechanics Mobility Pass-Coverage-Ability Pass-Protection Pass-Sets Passing-Down-Skills Pocket-Manipulation Poise Power-at-POA Progressions RAC-Ability Range Release-Package Release Route-Running Run-Defending Separation Special-Teams-Ability-1 Versatility Vision Zone-Coverage-Skills Anchor-Ability Contact-Balance Man-Coverage-Skills Tackling Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City clock location phone email play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook tiktok checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter youtube send linkedin search arrow-circle bell left-arrow right-arrow tdn-mark filled-play-circle yellow-arrow-circle dark-arrow-circle star cloudy snowy rainy sunny plus minus triangle-down link close drag minus-circle plus-circle pencil premium trash lock simple-trash simple-pencil eye cart
Isaiah Spiller

What Will Rookie Role Be For Isaiah Spiller?

  • Jack McKessy
  • August 3, 2022
  • Share

The Los Angeles Chargers may just have one of the NFL’s best 1-2 punches out of their backfield, and it kind of just fell into their laps. Austin Ekeler has proven himself to be among the league’s best RB1s, so the only question that remains is what rookie backup Isaiah Spiller’s role will look like.

Going into the 2022 NFL Draft, there were some who believed—including TDN’s scouting team—that Spiller out of Texas A&M had a skill set that made him worthy of being the first back off the board. He had great vision, explosive short-area burst, and the patience and decisiveness that projected well at the NFL level.

Instead, the Chargers selected him in the fourth round as the ninth running back taken in this year’s draft. That will give Spiller the chance to share the backfield with Ekeler and prove the teams that passed on him were wrong.

So far in training camp, Spiller’s primary role has been taking reps with the second- and third-team offenses. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Ekeler was always going to be the Chargers’ starting back this year coming off of a career year that featured 911 rushing yards, 647 receiving yards (for a 1,558 all-purpose total), and 20 total touchdowns.

What’s been promising about Spiller so far in training camp has been his performance with the 2s and 3s. Where previous rookie backs Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree III struggled to catch on in training camp, Spiller has already been showing off the skills that led many to believe he would be worthy of a second- or third-round pick in this year’s draft, particularly in the passing game. He’s been earning some extra attention for his route-running skills, good hands, and run-after-catch effort in team drills in addition to the excellent vision and explosiveness he has as a rusher.

Now that the pads have come on, the pecking order behind Ekeler is becoming even clearer. One report specifically noted Spiller’s physicality showing up even more now that practices are featuring more contact. And as recently as Monday, Spiller was taking some reps with the starters at training camp, making him the only running back besides Ekeler to do so and seemingly indicating he’s all but won the RB2 spot.

The rookie’s physicality and ability to fight through contact while identifying holes and cut-back lanes brought him tons of success at the collegiate level, where he rushed for nearly 3,000 yards. He’s not a guy with tons of elusiveness, agility, or speed, but tackling Spiller in the open field given his hard-hitting, downhill runner tendencies will be a tall ask for any defender.

Spiller’s goal heading into training camp was to win the backup job. So far, it seems he’s on pace to declare that mission a success. Spiller will almost certainly be second on the Chargers’ depth chart ahead of Kelley and Rountree, especially with last year’s backup running back, Justin Jackson, leaving for Detroit in free agency.

That means that for this season, Spiller likely will serve in a rotational role to keep Ekeler fresh throughout the season. Ekeler will definitely still be the bell cow for the Chargers with the ability to handle 10-15 carries each game while also contributing as a receiver on passing downs, but Spiller should get plenty of looks himself. Once he gets those opportunities, Spiller will show off the full range of skills that made him so successful with the Aggies. 

With just two more years on Ekeler’s contract, Spiller has a shot to lock himself in as Los Angeles’ running back of the future this year as well.

Written By

Jack McKessy