Chargers’ injury list grows, especially affecting the offense

The Chargers did something Monday they had never done since Justin Herbert became their starting quarterback in Week 2 of the 2020 season.

They won a game when their offense was limited to less than 300 yards.

The Chargers were 4-0 on such occasions and lost by a 135-47 aggregate score.

Against Denver that week, they survived with a 19-16 victory in overtime at a night offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi described as “a punch.” The Chargers rushed for just 297 yards despite making 83 plays and making 11 third downs.

“I wish we had scored more points,” said Lombardi on Thursday. “…I think it’s rare that you get that many plays when you don’t feel like moving the ball.”

The Chargers had five series that lasted nine games or more, but only one of them resulted in a touchdown. Three ended in field goals and one in a failed fourth-down attempt.

They finished in the red one out of four races, continuing a problematic trend. The Chargers are 24th in the NFL within the opponent’s 20 yard line and have touchdowns 48% of the time.

Last season, they finished fifth overall with a 64% win rate.

“I would say it needs improvement,” said Lombardi. “We come down a lot, but we have to get away with touchdowns. A lot of that comes down to running the ball a little bit better and executing some of the plays better, having a better plan, everything. Not as good as we want.”

Any recent offensive problems could be compounded Sunday when the Chargers play Seattle at SoFi Stadium, with the roster further hampered by injuries.

Wide receiver Keenan Allen remains restricted in practice with a hamstring problem that has kept him out since the second quarter of the season opener.

Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer celebrates.

Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer is on concussion protocol due to an injury he sustained in the game against the Denver Broncos.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

Center Corey Linsley was also limited this week as he recovers from food poisoning that knocked him out of the game against the Broncos.

Right tackle Trey Pipkins III plays through a ligament strain in his left knee that hampered his effectiveness on Monday.

Running back Joshua Kelley also has a sprained knee ligament and hasn’t been able to train.

Wide receiver Joshua Palmer and tight end Donald Parham Jr. both remain on concussion protocol after suffering injuries against Denver.

The Chargers were already without left tackle Rashawn Slater, who is on the injured reserve list with a bicep tear.

And then there’s Herbert, who was removed from the team’s official injury report this week but is still treating a fractured rib cartilage.

“We don’t make too much of it because that’s the way the NFL is,” said coach Brandon Staley. “I’ll tell the boys. … A lot is happening and you have to be prepared for it. It’s just part of the job description.”

On the plus side, tight end Gerald Everett returned to practice Thursday after missing a day through illness.

Still, Herbert and the Chargers are staring at the possibility of meeting the Seahawks with Mike Williams as their lone true starting-type wide receiver.

The Chargers also have veteran DeAndre Carter signed as a free agent primarily to be their kick returner.

Plus there’s the likes of Jason Moore (five career receptions) and Michael Bandy (three practice team call-ups in 2022).

Also on the practice team are John Hightower, 10 career receptions; Joe Reed, 27 career offensive snaps, and Keelan Doss, one NFL game since the 2019 season.

If this offense were a puzzle, the first challenge would be finding all the pieces.

“You’re always sitting in the film room trying to find the perfect mix to make sure you give yourself opportunities to make explosive plays,” Lombardi said, “but also be able to protect the quarterback and move the ball.”

In Williams, the Chargers are waiting for a highlight, but also for a player who is aiming for his own comeback. Against Denver, Williams caught just two passes for 17 yards.

So what will the Chargers do on Sunday to make up for what’s missing? Expect even more from running back Austin Ekeler, whom Herbert targeted 16 times against the Broncos and hit 24 touches en route to Ekeler, the second-highest single-game total of his career.

There will certainly be plenty of games designed for Williams, who was taken out of the game by cornerback Pat Surtain II Monday, and Lombardi explained that the Chargers’ play calls don’t line up well with what Denver had requested on defense.

Everett seems more involved, not least out of necessity, and the Chargers could use a two-way game from a less famous source – Bandy? Is Sony Michel running back? Tight end Tre’ McKitty?

“You’re just always trying to empower the guys, help them do their best,” Lombardi said. “And that formula changes as new players come in.”

Finding the formula against the Seahawks could be Lombardi’s toughest challenge yet.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-10-20/chargers-injury-list-grows-receiver-seattle-seahawks Chargers’ injury list grows, especially affecting the offense

Emma Bowman

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