Chargers ‘got to weather the storm’ as injuries to notable players swell
Only one of the 46 Chargers active for the game Sunday against Miami didn’t appear.
And that player is one of the team’s best.
Running back Melvin Gordon was the lone Charger never to leave the bench in the 30-10 victory, the two-time Pro Bowl running back having just returned from a contract holdout that stretched for nine weeks.
Otherwise, everyone played at least a handful of snaps, some of the reserves appearing because of injury, others because of the blowout nature of the game’s final minutes.
“I think it’s going to make us a better team in the long run,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “More of these guys can play now and get these meaningful snaps. We get guys coming back healthy … at some point, they might have to come in and play.”
The Chargers have 14 starters or significant contributors dealing with some sort of debilitating ailment at the moment.
Desmond King put in a monster performance for the Chargers against the Dolphins as Los Angeles shut out Miami in the second half of Sunday’s win.
Their next injury report likely will include at least 10 names. They lost defensive end Melvin Ingram on Sunday to a hamstring injury that likely will keep him out this week.
Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman also couldn’t finish against the Dolphins because of a quadriceps problem. Linebacker Denzel Perryman was evaluated for a concussion and cleared.
They lost their latest starting tight end, Sean Culkin, for the season to a torn Achilles tendon.
“Right now, we’ve got to weather the storm,” Lynn said. “We’ve got to win with what we have and hopefully we’re in it at the end of the season.”
The Chargers played six of their seven 2019 draft picks Sunday. The only one who didn’t appear, quarterback Easton Stick, was inactive.
Linebacker Drue Tranquill and free safety Nasir Adderley saw their most significant snaps yet on defense.
“Later in the year, you have to depend on these guys anyway,” Lynn said. “A lot times, your rookie class will play a lot the second half of the season. And your reserves as well. Getting these snaps now can be very important for us later.”
The long-term injured players the Chargers hope to get back this season include safeties Derwin James and Adrian Phillips, tight end Hunter Henry and left tackle Russell Okung.
On the shorte rterm, there are wide receivers Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin, running back Justin Jackson and tight end Virgil Green.
After ending a contract holdout, Melvin Gordon is expected to make his season debut next Sunday against Denver. Meanwhile, Austin Ekeler keeps producing.
Then there’s kicker Michael Badgley, who made it through training camp and the preseason only to injure his right groin just before the opener. He has yet to return as the condition has lingered.
“He’s a tough guy,” Lynn said. “He didn’t really say how bad it was in the beginning, so I was thinking, ‘Any day now.’ It was something that probably was (going to be) a few weeks anyway.”
Because of the thinned roster, fullback Derek Watt lined up as a tight end a few times against Miami. With Culkin’s injury, the Chargers are almost certainly going to add a tight end this week, perhaps Stephen Anderson off the practice squad.
With Gordon set to make his season debut Sunday against Denver, Lynn said the Chargers could use more two-back sets with Austin Ekeler as a way to make up for the lack of healthy wide receivers.
“When you’re short on receivers, those packages come in handy,” he said. “A lot of times, you want to get your best players on the field, and that’s a good way to do it. A lot of times, those players are running backs.”
When a team is dealing with as many injuries as the Chargers are these days, the impact can be widespread.
On Sunday, Lynn was forced to use all of his timeouts by the 11:24 mark of the fourth quarter, in part, because the missing pieces messed with the schemes the Chargers were trying to run.
“We had a few guys go down -- you know, kind of been the theme of the season so far,” Lynn said. “(We) called some personnel groupings that we didn’t really have.”
Special teams push
Opposing kickers are only two of eight on field-goal attempts and six of nine on extra points against the Chargers.
Miami’s Jason Sanders missed two second-quarter field goals Sunday. Had he made both, the Chargers’ lead would have been just 17-16 entering the second half.
Lynn credited special teams coaches George Stewart and Keith Burns for devising schemes that generate a push, particularly off the edges.
“I’ve been very pleased with the way the field-goal block team has pressured the opposing kickers,” he said.
Asked if he felt the Chargers were directly affecting the situation, Lynn said, “Well, whatever side we’re rushing from, they’re missing the other way. So, it’s something.”
The Chargers lost defensive end Chris Peace to the New York Giants, who claimed the undrafted rookie off waivers.
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