The Chargers’ strong-armed quarterback is hurting and might not play Sunday because of a rib injury. One of his top receivers is ailing because of a sore hamstring and might not play either. Two of his top linemen and a key tight end also aren’t sound and could be sidelined.
Plus, their prized free-agent signing, a disruptive cornerback capable of making the lives of opposing quarterbacks and receivers miserable, didn’t practice all week because of an ankle injury that’s limited him to one game after he underwent minor surgery Aug. 23.
The Chargers are battered and bruised going into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at SoFi Stadium.
Coach Brandon Staley’s entire Friday session with reporters was devoted entirely to questions about injuries, possible replacements for injured players and changes in tactics, if necessary. Naturally, the most pressing questions centered on quarterback Justin Herbert and his fractured rib cartilage.
A decision on Herbert’s participation might be made in the minutes before kickoff Sunday, after he goes through a pregame workout and determines his fitness. If he can’t play, then the Chargers will turn to Chase Daniel, a 13-year career backup in the NFL.
Will the Chargers’ game plan be altered?
“Of course, a little bit, but not a lot in terms of the overall approach to playing against Jacksonville,” Staley said. “We go into every game with our quarterback being the biggest asset on our team. Our protection plan and the run game, all of it, it’s with our quarterback’s security in mind. That’s the way we do it here. That part won’t change. There could be some of the run game elements to the plan that you would limit, but as it relates to how we attack Jacksonville, probably not much at all.”
Herbert expressed confidence in Daniel and also Easton Stick, another backup quarterback.
“It’s been a normal week,” Herbert said. “They have done such a great job all year, all camp, of being ready to go and studying the playbook. We trust those guys out there and they are playmakers. To have Chase, with as much experience as he’s had, and with Easton as athletic as he is, there are special parts to both of their games. They’ve done a great job all camp long.”
But wait, there’s more.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen was listed as questionable to play Sunday because of a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the second half of the Chargers’ victory in Week 1 over the Raiders and all of their loss in Week 2 to the Chiefs. Staley said Allen was “50/50” to play against Jacksonville.
Cornerback J.C. Jackson and center Corey Linsley were listed as doubtful to play because of ankle and knee injuries, respectively. Jackson, who signed a five-year, $82.5-million contract during the offseason, and Linsley did not practice at all during the week and are likely out for Sunday.
Tight end Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring) and right tackle Trey Pipkins III (foot) were listed as questionable. Parham was injured during training camp and has been sidelined for the first two games of the season. Pipkins was hurt during the Chargers’ loss last week to the Chiefs.
The Jaguars have no such injury concerns and are coming off a shutout of the Indianapolis Colts in which quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 25 of 30 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-0 victory. Jacksonville goes into the game with six takeaways to only one giveaway.
“He’s another guy, a big guy like Justin,” Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa said of Lawrence. “He can run really well. He’s a great athlete. Again, it’s kind of like a broken record, but as a defensive line we want to keep him in the pocket and not let him get outside and hurt us with his feet. They had a really good game last week. It’s definitely going to be a challenge.”
JAGUARS at CHARGERS
When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: SoFi Stadium
TV/Radio: Ch. 2/98.7 FM; 105.5 FM/94.3 FM (Spanish)