Who can Chargers get to play defensive line? More injuries leave them with just three

Chargers defensive lineman Christian Covington is helped off the field after suffering a torn pectoral muscle Sunday.
Chargers defensive lineman Christian Covington (95) is helped off the field after suffering a torn pectoral muscle against the 49ers.
(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

On Monday, former Chargers defensive lineman Jerry Tillery was claimed on waivers by one of the team’s AFC West rivals, Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, the Chargers were left combing the NFL and beyond for, of all things, defensive linemen.

They finished their 22-16 loss Sunday at San Francisco with only three players available at the position, a reality that was reinforced in the aftermath when tests confirmed significant injuries to Otito Ogbonnia and Christian Covington.


Ogbonnia will miss the rest of the season because of a ruptured patellar tendon and Covington “likely” will do the same because of a torn pectoral muscle, according to coach Brandon Staley.

Both players were injured in the defeat to the 49ers, leaving Sebastian Joseph-Day, Breiden Fehoko and Morgan Fox as the only defensive linemen healthy enough to finish the game.

Jerry Tillery’s role already was reduced as the Chargers defense was rebuilt in the offseason, but tensions rose this week leading to Tillery being waived.

Nov. 11, 2022

Joseph-Day (with 62) and Fehoko (42) both reached career highs in snaps Sunday, while Fox (48) finished with the third-highest total of his career.

The Chargers figure to promote Joe Gaziano from their practice squad this week but will need to look elsewhere for further help before returning to practice Wednesday.

“We’ll be working over the next 36 hours,” Staley said, “to make a couple acquisitions to get us to full strength.”

The Chargers will be searching particularly for players with whom the coaching staff has some familiarity or who have been part of a scheme similar to the one Staley employs.


A starter last year, Tillery would figure prominently in the team’s plans this week had he not been waived Thursday. The Chargers parted ways with the 2019 first-round pick after a rift between player and team was deemed beyond repair.

Chargers defensive tackle Otito Ogbonnia (93) is helped off the field after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon.
Chargers defensive tackle Otito Ogbonnia is helped off the field after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon against the 49ers.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

Tillery was claimed by eight teams, according to an ESPN report, and was awarded to the Raiders since their 2-7 record gave them priority.

The Chargers’ major losses up front began in Week 9 when Austin Johnson was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury against Atlanta.

They now have six players — Ogbonnia, Covington, Johnson, Rashawn Slater, J.C. Jackson and Jalen Guyton — expected to miss the rest of the season. Slater could make it back for the playoffs, if the Chargers get there.

“Regardless of the circumstance, we’re gonna be a connected team and a tough and rugged team that’s going to try and figure it out,” Staley said. “I liked the way that looked [Sunday] night in that way. We make no excuses.


“When I say no excuses, we’re not really trying to go in that direction in terms of our mindset. Our mindset is, are we playing to the standard of the L.A. Chargers and then are we figuring it out the best way we know how?”

Justin Herbert started strong only to struggle in the second half after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit in the Chargers’ 22-16 loss to the 49ers.

Nov. 13, 2022

The ailing Chargers led the 49ers for much of the night before San Francisco moved ahead midway through the fourth quarter. Despite the attrition, the Chargers had one of their best defensive performances to date.

This week, they might start getting back some injured players. Staley said wide receivers Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle) and edge rusher Chris Rumph II (knee) would return to practice in some capacity.

He also said he believed right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee) would be able to practice at some point. Tight end Gerald Everett, who left the game Sunday because of a groin injury, should practice this week, too, Staley said.

Kicker Dustin Hopkins (hamstring) likely remains a week away, meaning Cameron Dicker would kick Sunday against Kansas City.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler says the team can’t use injuries as a crutch and has to deliver big plays as they push to make the playoffs.

Nov. 14, 2022

“What you’re trying to do is keep your team week to week, knowing that what’s most important is the day that’s in front of you,” Staley said. “Our group has really kind of embraced that from the beginning of the season.”


The Chargers did get some good health news Monday when quarterback Justin Herbert and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr., both of whom were evaluated for concussions Sunday, were cleared after their league-mandated follow-ups.

At 5-4, the Chargers are eighth in the AFC, one spot from a playoff berth.

“What we want to be able to do is play our best football down the stretch,” Staley said. “I thought in a way … that group really played a good game [Sunday], gave what was a quality performance and gave us a chance to win.”

The 49ers might be 4-4, but they started 3-5 last season and reached the NFC title game. Former coach Sean Payton thinks they are equipped for Super Bowl.

Nov. 11, 2022