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Chargers : Vlasic Might Get His Chance at Quarterback

Times Staff Writer

Babe Laufenberg produced 2 victories in 6 starts. Injured ribs sidelined him before the Chargers decided to replace him. His understudy, Mark Malone, is 0-3 as a starter.

The question begs: When will the Chargers give the ball to third-stringer Mark Vlasic?

Charger Coach Al Saunders said Monday: “Certainly if we’re not successful in the next couple of weeks, he’s got to be ready to go because we’ve got to see what he can do.”

“We’ll try this week to get him more practice time,” offensive coordinator Jerry Rhome said. “We feel like it’s not fair to him to let him get into a game without any practice time.”

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That doesn’t mean Malone won’t start against the Raiders Sunday. But Rhome said that Vlasic will probably get in ahead of Laufenberg (whose ribs have healed to the point where he can play) if the need arises.

Vlasic, a second-year player from Iowa, hasn’t played a down this year and completed 3 of 6 passes for 8 yards in his only appearance last season.

Defensive coordinator Ron Lynn continues to be disappointed with the pass rush. The Chargers have managed only 13 sacks. Only Tampa Bay, with 11, has fewer. No Charger starting linebacker has a sack this year.

“In defense of those guys (the linebackers), not many of them have been on the field in predictable passing situations,” Lynn said.

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Lynn said there is a chance rookie Cedric Figaro, sidelined with back problems, may return from injured reserve this week. He also said he expects defensive end Leslie O’Neal to play against the Raiders Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. O’Neal, who rested his knee Sunday, played the 2 previous games after a 22-month layoff.

Don’t expect demoted cornerback Elvis Patterson to return soon. Sam Seale replaced Patterson in the starting lineup Sunday in Seattle and will probably start against the Raiders.

“Overall, he did pretty well,” Lynn said of Seale. “He had a couple of coverage busts, but overall he played pretty good.”

Part of the problem with the pass rush, Lynn said, has been a league-wide trend toward play-action passes. Play action forces defenses to respect the run. Or, if the defense blitzes, to commit to man-to-man pass coverage.

After 9 weeks:

-- The Chargers are tied with Dallas for the NFL’s longest active losing streak at 5.

-- Charger defensive end Lee Williams is tied with Jacob Green of Seattle for third in AFC sacks with 6. Mark Gastineau, former New York Jet, leads the conference with 7. Ray Childress of Houston is second with 6 1/2. Charles Haley of San Francisco leads the league with 10 1/2.

-- Former Aztec Randy Kirk has 75 special-teams “hits,” which include tackles, assists and blocks. The next closest Charger is Tim Spencer with 55.

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The preliminary Charger injury report: linebacker David Brandon (groin) doubtful, tight end Rod Bernstine (shoulder) questionable, cornerback Elvis Patterson (hip) questionable, tight end Arthur Cox (shoulder) probable, wide receiver Quinn Early (toe) probable, safety Martin Bayless (groin) probable, running back Lionel James (leg) probable and defensive end Tyrone Keys (knee) probable.


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