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New rookie starter Dan Feeney and the rest of the Chargers know what's on the line against the Patriots

New rookie starter Dan Feeney and the rest of the Chargers know what's on the line against the Patriots
Chargers offensive guard Dan Feeney (66) and quarterback Kellen Clemens (10) warm up for their game on Oct. 8. (Ed Mulholland / Associated Press)

Dan Feeney, the Chargers rookie offensive lineman, knows come Sunday he'll have a big, nasty defending NFL champion lined up in front of him, ready to try to run him over.

It's called a "jam" front, and it's a bit of a Patriots specialty.

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As far as first starts in the NFL go, there could've been easier ones.

"I'm getting blessed by fire a little bit," Feeney said with a smile.

Feeney won't face Tom Brady on Sunday when the Chargers face the Patriots in New England — that'll be the defense's job. But he and the other 10 on offense will get to take on a different, intimidating challenge. They'll have to figure out a Bill Belichick defense.

The numbers shouldn't cause anyone to shudder in fear. This year's edition of the Patriots' defense is in the bottom 10 in points allowed (23.7), last in yards given up (426.7) and in the bottom half in takeaways.

Maybe, it's a down year.

Or, maybe, it was just a slow start. In Week 7, New England held a high-powered Atlanta offense to seven points.

"It sure didn't look like they struggled last Sunday night," Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "I don't buy into that."

It's not just Sunday's performance, though. In a run as one the NFL's best teams since Brady became the starting quarterback, the Patriots have developed a reputation for disguising their defenses with unorthodox looks.

Even a veteran such as Philip Rivers, who in 183 straight starts has seen close to it all, said the Patriots are always a little tricky.

"They're like they've been for a lot of years in terms of what they do," Rivers said. "They never let you get comfortable, they give you multiple looks, they do things that I guess you would call unorthodox, but watching them do it, knowing the history they have there over the years, it's not unusual for them."

It forces a player who aims to have the defense figured before the snap to read, recognize and react in the split second after the ball is put into play.

"I think you work as hard as you can pre-snap; it's one of those games where you have to read it out and kind of play it by the book," Rivers said. "Don't try to do too much, take what they give you, because shoot, they've been that way for a long time. They want to make you earn every yard you get."

Chargers send Inman out

With rookie Mike Williams healthy and a surplus of viable pass catchers, the Chargers picked up a conditional draft choice from Chicago for wide receiver Dontrelle Inman.

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"Dontrelle did a heck of a job here, but he's in a contract year, and we wanted to get him some place where he could play," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. "Chicago needed a receiver. It worked out."

Inman, who joined the Chargers in 2014, broke out a season ago. He started all 16 games in 2016, catching 58 passes for 810 yards and four touchdowns.

"He made a lot of plays, and the type of character he had, the teammate he was, he was a great addition to our team," Rivers said. "…You're always happy to see him get an opportunity, but you hate to lose him as a teammate."

Lynn said receiver Geremy Davis, currently on the team's practice squad, is in line for the newly created roster spot.

"He deserves to be back up," Lynn said.

Etc.

Even though Nick Novak was listed as a limited participant in practice Wednesday, Lynn said he doesn't expect his kicker's ankle injury to be a factor. … Starting right tackle Joe Barksdale, who missed last Sunday's win against Denver, didn't participate in practice Wednesday because of the foot injury he's battled since the preseason. …Tight end Antonio Gates also was limited Wednesday with a knee injury, joining Melvin Gordon (foot), and Corey Liuget (back) on the injury report. Lynn said Gordon's limited participation is part of a season-long maintenance plan. …The Patriots' win Sunday over Atlanta was played in such foggy conditions that Lynn said scouting the game was problematic. "Fortunately, they played five, six games before that so we've got a pretty good idea what their personnel can do, what they're gonna do," Lynn said. "That game, yeah, we looked at it. There are some quarters that are hard to scout because you can hardly see."

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports

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