Chargers’ defense needs to get up to speed after a sluggish Week 1

Indianapolis Colts receiver TY Hilton dives for a touchdown past Chargers defenders late in the fourth quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Gus Bradley said the “No. 1 concern” entering the Chargers’ opener against Indianapolis was his defense’s ability to play fast and not over-analyze.

As the coordinator on that side of the line of scrimmage, Bradley had a solid read of the situation.

The Chargers surrendered 203 rushing yards - the second-highest total in the league Sunday - because, coach Anthony Lynn explained, they literally were not up to speed.

“It was execution,” he said Monday. “I think sometimes when you’re not playing fast and you’re playing a little timid then you can get pushed around a whole lot easier.”


Marlon Mack rushed 25 times for 174 yards on an afternoon when the Colts averaged nearly eight yards per carry in the second half. Ten of their 13 first downs after halftime came on the ground.

Lynn said he expected improvement as the game reps increase this season, while adding that he has “complete confidence” in Bradley and the team’s defensive assistants.

But heading into Week 2, stopping the run will be a point of emphasis for a group that was ninth in rushing defense in 2018.

“Anytime a team runs the football on you that many times for that many yards it’s a physical thing,” Lynn said. “That’s where we have to get better.”

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One of the Chargers’ noted run defenders in recent years has been Denzel Perryman. But the linebacker played only one special teams snap against Indianapolis as he deals with ankle and knee issues.

The Chargers are being cautious with Perryman in part because of his history with injuries. He played only 16 games the past two seasons combined.

“Denzel’s got to get himself healthy,” Lynn said. “As soon as Denzel’s ready, you’ll see him more.”

On Sunday, the Chargers will face a Detroit team that gained 116 rushing yards in its opener, a 27-27 tie with Arizona.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford did most of the offensive damage, passing for 385 yards and three touchdowns. A year ago, Detroit was 23rd in rushing offense.

“We definitely have to improve,” Lynn said. “[I] was not happy with that…That’s an area where we’ve gotten better over the last couple years, but we definitely took a step back [Sunday].”

Lynn likes offensive line

During the preseason, the Chargers struggled in short-yardage situations. In their opener, they twice converted third-and-short by running fullback Derek Watt up the middle.

That success, Lynn said, reflected well on an offensive line that features youth in tackles Trent Scott and Sam Tevi and guard Dan Fenney.

“It’s just a simple dive play, but I liked what the offensive line did, the movement that we got up front,” Lynn said. “When the offensive line can get a yard, the back can get a yard.”

Scott, making his second career start and first at left tackle, is filling in for Russell Okung, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who is out indefinitely because of blood clots.

Scott was beaten twice for sacks in the span of three plays in the third quarter. He was better over the remainder of the game.

“That says a lot about a man’s character, to overcome adversity and fight back and finish the game the way he did,” Lynn said. “He played a physical football game.”

Lynn praised the offensive line in general saying they “played outstanding” with the exception of “four or five plays.”

Entering Sunday, Lynn had talked about guard Forrest Lamp, a second-round pick in 2017, rotating in against Indianapolis. Instead, he played only two snaps, both short-yardage conversions.

“You will see Forrest playing,” Lynn said. “[Sunday], we had a package for him, but he didn’t get in and get as many series as we thought he might. That could be different this week.”

Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson give Chargers 1-2 punch in backfield that would seem to make Melvin Gordon expendable.

Davis to miss time

The Chargers are considering options at cornerback after Lynn revealed that Michael Davis will “miss a little time” because of the hamstring injury he suffered Sunday.

Trevor Williams also has been out because of a quadriceps problem, leaving the team thin at the position as the date opposite Stafford approaches.

Against the Colts, Brandon Facyson replaced Davis after he departed in the first quarter. Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett repeatedly went after Facyson with success.

Kemon Hall, an undrafted rookie out of North Texas, is the only cornerback on the Chargers’ practice squad.

Status of Mike Williams uncertain

Mike Williams suffered a knee injury Sunday but after the game indicated he expected to miss no time.

Lynn said the wide receiver was being re-elevated Monday and sounded less certain.

“Hopefully, it’s not too serious,” he said. “Mike’s a heck of a football player. We’re going to need him. Hopefully, he’ll be back soon.”

Not having Williams for any stretch would be a blow for a receiver group that also lost Tyrell Williams in the offseason to free agency.

Against the Colts, Mike Williams had two catches for 29 yards before going out early in the fourth quarter.