It goes without saying that the Chargers won’t have their best 46 players on the field Sunday afternoon when they kick off their season in earnest against the Detroit Lions.
Not only will they be without one of the greatest offensive players in team history, as Antonio Gates serves his four-game suspension, but on Wednesday afternoon came the news that Ladarius Green was being tested for a concussion. Whether or not Green can pass concussion protocol and return to practice remains to be determined but that leaves only two healthy tight ends on this roster. David Johnson, whose last full season start and touchdown came in 2011 as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the very raw, untested Kyle Miller, whose sole NFL experience is limited to one game in 2012 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. As luck would have it, veteran tight end John Phillips was one of the Chargers final roster cuts.
Concerns over Green’s status aside, the Chargers injury report was a rather short one. Tourek Williams (broken foot) and Johnnie Troutman (broken arm) didn’t practice and outside linebacker Jerry Attaochu and Craig Mager were limited with hamstring injuries.
The injury to Attaochu, who was sidelined by hamstring issues during his rookie season, could be an interesting development to watch and create an opportunity for rookie Kyle Emanuel.
Ndamukong Suh may have taken his talents to South Beach but the Lions defensive front still poses quite a challenge to a Chargers offensive line that only features one returning starter from 2014 to the same position, left tackle King Dunlap. Philip Rivers cited the sheer physicality of a defense that just flies to the football.
“There’s not a lot of repeat coverages, repeat defenses,” said Rivers. “They don’t let you settle in and be like ‘this is what they’re doing’ this game. They always kind of keep you off-balance. I think the number one thing, and I know it’s probably a characteristic of all defenses, that all defenses would like to say is a trait of theirs, but this defense really flies to the ball. Those linebackers and secondary and safeties, 32 (safety James Ihedigbo) 55 (linebacker Stephen Tulloch) and 54 (linebackers DeAndre Levy), the ends, they fly to the football every snap. And so we can’t let that surprise us. They are flying to the football in a hurry so we’re certainly going to have that intensity and more, when we get out there.”
No small task for an offensive line that’s still finding it’s way together but Rivers spoke of his confidence in his new-look offensive line.
“It’s a different group but one that I think has a lot of confidence together, I know I have a lot of confidence in em. They’ve really come together over the last four to five months.
Settled in to their spots and they’ve meshed well. I think we’re in a good place going into week one.”
Detroit’s injury report-
LB DeAndre Levy (hip), DT Caraun Reid (ankle) and guard Larry Warford (ankle) did not practice. TE Eric Ebron (ankle) and OT LaAdrian Waddle (elbow) were limited.
A familiar opponent, kind of
Both Chris Watt and backup center Trevor Robinson got a good look at Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata when they faced him as a member of the Baltimore Ravens last year. Robinson replaced Watt at center in the third quarter and helped lead the Chargers to a comeback 34-33 win and three fourth-quarter touchdowns.