Chargers-Vikings takeaways: J.C. Jackson benched before warrant issued for his arrest

Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson speaks during training camp.
Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson was inactive for the Week 3 game against the Minnesota Vikings despite being healthy.
(Ryan Sun / Associated Press)
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Brandon Staley’s major decisions Sunday didn’t begin with the fourth-down call in the game’s final two minutes.

An hour and half before kickoff, the Chargers announced that big-money cornerback J.C. Jackson would be inactive despite being healthy.

“Just a coach’s decision,” Staley explained later. “We felt like this was the right group for this game.”


In advance of Sunday, Staley suggested Jackson, Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. would be used in a rotation until the Chargers could determine their best pairing at outside corner.

Asked specifically if Jackson now would have an opportunity to work his way back into a rotation, Staley said the veteran’s status is “to be determined.”

With the Chargers desperate for a win, star receiver Keenan Allen stepped up with an 18-catch, 215-yard performance and a touchdown throw in a 28-24 victory over Minnesota.

Sept. 24, 2023

While Jackson’s on-field struggles continue, he is dealing with another off-field problem after an arrest warrant was issued for him Monday in Massachusetts for an alleged probation violation.

He failed to appear in district court Friday in Attleboro for a hearing related to reckless driving and speeding charges he faced while still a member of the New England Patriots, according to court documents.

Staley said Monday that Jackson’s legal situation was not a factor in him being inactive against Minnesota. Staley also said he did not know if the team would take any disciplinary action against Jackson.


“It’s a private matter for J.C.,” he said, “and he’s working through it.”

In explaining where Jackson stands in regards to playing time, Staley twice referenced preparation as a factor. He was asked if Jackson has had problems readying himself to play.

“Nothing to look into [there],” Staley said, “just in terms of that overall product, from the beginning of the week to the end of the week, just giving us the best chance to win on Sunday.”

Staley called Jackson “a work in progress” and said his status for Sunday against Las Vegas would “be determined by what happens in practice this week.”

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams will miss the rest of the 2023 season after sustaining a torn ACL in his left knee during a 28-24 win Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.

Sept. 25, 2023

Jackson started the first two games, playing 66% of the defensive snaps in Week 1 and 63% in Week 2. Coming back from a significant knee injury, he appeared to be progressing.

Then Jackson spent Sunday in street clothes as the Chargers tried to stop All-Pro Justin Jefferson, the exact sort of receiver they hoped to assign to Jackson after adding him in March 2021.


The Chargers gave Jackson a five-year contract that guaranteed him $40 million and is worth up to $82.5 million. He was coming off four productive seasons with New England, Jackson intercepting 26 passes as a Patriot.

He struggled last season, however, first dealing with a foot issue that required surgery in August and then playing poorly enough upon his return that he was benched. Jackson then went down for the season in Week 7 because of a knee injury.

He made it back for the start of training camp and returned to the starting lineup but with the Chargers’ pass defense particularly porous, Jackson found himself without a role against Minnesota.


James’ rough stuff

Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. tackles Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2).
(Stacy Bengs / Associated Press)

Before leaving the game in the third quarter because of a hamstring injury, safety Derwin James Jr., for the second consecutive week, was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty because of a violent hit.


Late in the second quarter, James was cited after driving Minnesota’s Alexander Mattison out of bounds. The penalty converted what would have been fourth-and-goal at the Chargers’ six-yard line.

“Come on, bro,” James said after the game. “I don’t know what to do at this point. I turned my shoulder. I turned my whole body. I just don’t know at this point.”

James did appear to hit Mattison with his shoulder, though the hit landed high on the Vikings running back.

In a Week 2 loss at Tennessee, James was penalized for hitting Titans wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine in a similar manner. James also was fined $21,855 by the league.

The Chargers failed in key situations in two losses to open the season but in Minnesota they came up with two defensive stands and late touchdown to beat the Vikings.

Sept. 24, 2023

This time, James was visibly frustrated as he left the field briefly after the call.

“He’s frustrated because he led with his shoulder,” Staley said. “He’s frustrated because he’s making the right football play.”


In a Week 16 victory at Indianapolis last season, James was ejected because of a hit on Colts receiver Ashton Dulin.

“I’m going to keep playing physical,” James said. “I’m going to keep playing fast. I’m making split[-second] decisions. I’m not a dirty player.”

As for his hamstring injury, James downplayed its severity, saying it’s “nothing to be concerned about.”


Tuli Tuipulotu on an edge

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a pass under pressure by Chargers linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu.
Tuli Tuipulotu (45) was the Chargers’ best pass rusher against Kirk Cousins (8) and the Minnesota Vikings.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

Rookie edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu continued to shine, finishing with a sack, four tackles and a team-high four quarterback hits.


“I’m just showing what I can do to help contribute to the team,” the second-round pick out of USC said. “That’s really what I want to do. Hopefully, I can continue to show the guys that and earn my right to be on the field.”

Tuipulotu has received high praise from teammates and coaches since the opening of training camp. Having just turned 21, he has quickly emerged, particularly with Joey Bosa slowed by a hamstring strain.

The Chargers have employed Tuipulotu, Bosa and edge rusher Khalil Mack together in certain packages with success the last two weeks.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 28-24 road win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday — scoring and statistics.

Sept. 24, 2023

“He just does a lot of the things that winning edge players do,” Staley said. “He can rush the passer. He’s rugged in the run game. We can move him around. He’s got a big-time motor.”

On Friday, Bosa told reporters that Tuipulotu has been a bit starstruck by the NFL. He said the rookie even reacted to seeing Tennessee’s DeAndre Hopkins last week.


Tuipulotu said his cousin sent him a clip of Bosa’s comments.

“Today, I made sure not to say nothing,” Tuipulotu said, smiling. “I didn’t even realize it might bother them. So I’ll just be shell-shocked in my own head.”

Shell-shocked? As an NFL player?

“It took me a while to get used to practicing next to the vets on our team,” Tuipulotu said. “Everything’s just a big shock. I’m enjoying it.”


Bombs away

Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs for a touchdown against the Chargers.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

The Chargers again yielded some big pass plays, Kirk Cousins hooking up with Jefferson for 52- and 34-yard gains and K.J. Osborn for a 36-yard pickup, which converted a fourth down and resulted in a touchdown.

The 52-yarder to Jefferson also went for a score as he ran loose through the Chargers secondary. Safety JT Woods had a shot at Jefferson in the open field but missed the tackle while diving at his feet.


“That’s one part of my game that I’m always going to be working on,” Woods said. “I need to be an eraser in the deep part of the field.”

Hall of Fame QBs such as Fran Tarkenton, Roger Staubach, Archie Manning and Jim Kelly, used to call the plays. Why don’t quarterbacks do it anymore?

Sept. 22, 2023

The Chargers attempted to double-team Jefferson for much of the game, but he still caught seven passes for 149 yards.

“I thought he had to beat us today,” Staley said. “That’s what we wanted, for him to have to beat us.”

Through three games, the Chargers have allowed 17 pass plays of at least 20 yards and seven of at least 30 yards.


Out of the running

The Chargers' Joshua Kelley (25) is gang tackled by the Minnesota Vikings.
The Chargers’ Joshua Kelley (25) is gang tackled by the Minnesota Vikings. Kelley finished with just 12 yards on 11 carries.
(Stacy Bengs / Associated Press)


After rushing for 233 yards in their season opener versus Miami, the Chargers have totaled 91 yards — on 36 carries — the last two games. They finished with 30 yards on 15 attempts against Minnesota.

They’ve played consecutive games without No. 1 back Austin Ekeler, who is dealing with an ankle sprain. If Ekeler is unable to play next against Las Vegas, he’d have more time to heal since the Chargers are off Week 5.

On Sunday, running backs Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller combined for 19 yards on 13 rushes as an issue from recent seasons has resurfaced for the Chargers.


In his own words

“Just hunting for the ball. That’s my mentality. I took his money.”— Chargers safety Alohi Gilman on the first-quarter play during which he stripped the football from Minnesota tight end T.J. Hockenson