Chargers’ defensive flaws exposed with understaffed unit

There is a lot that Joey Bosa and Derwin James can do to mask a lackluster season for the Los Angeles Chargers defense.

With neither in the lineup, fatal defensive flaws for most of the year were ripe for the Houston Texans’ picking in Sunday’s 41-29 loss.

The Chargers’ run defense has struggled all season. Without Bosa, James, defensive lineman Justin Jones and cornerback Michael Davis, they allowed 5.3 yards per carry and a career-high 149 yards and two TDs by Rex Burkhead. Houston’s 189 yards rushing marked the sixth time they’ve allowed at least 175 yards this season.

Los Angeles, whose defense allowed a 51.1% conversion rate for the third-highest in the league, allowed Houston to achieve 9 of 13, the 10th time a team has achieved more than the half of his third tries against the Chargers.

“When you watch the movie, we were in a lot of eight man fronts where we knew exactly the type of tracks that were going to be put on by this team,” said coach Brandon Staley. “That’s what they did. We were in a lot of racing structures designed to get rid of it, but it depends on technique, attitude and playing together, playing with that intensity, that energy that the game demands, that it demands, no matter who you are playing.

“The NFL demands your full respect. I feel like we didn’t have enough energy and intensity in yesterday’s game. That is why we have acted as we have done.

The poor performance on defense means the Chargers have gone from being a wildcard to being on the outside and looking for help.

Things don’t get any easier for the Chargers heading into this week’s must-see game against Denver. On Monday, they had two more defensive starters added to the reserve / COVID-19 roster along with cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and safety Nasir Adderley.

The two are not vaccinated and will miss Sunday’s game. Combined with James and Davis, rookie Asante Samuel Jr. would be the only regular starter.

Davis, Samuel, Harris, Adderley and James’s starting high school haven’t started as a group in the same game since Oct. 31 against New England.

Bosa could come out of league protocols on Thursday. Jones and Davis, who tested positive before kick-off, are on the go.

“We haven’t had continuity at any level of our defense this year. It is exacerbated in high school, but our front has not had continuity either. We’ve just had a lot of moving parts this year, ”Staley said.

“We really had to figure it out. We will need it because there are a lot of challenges ahead of us right now. “

Along with the lack of body on defense, the Chargers will face a rushed offense from Denver that generated 147 yards in their 28-13 win on Nov. 28.

WHAT WORKED

Justin Jackson had 162 scrimmage yards (64 rushing, 98 receiving) in place of Austin Ekeler, who was absent after testing positive for COVID-19. The fourth-year running back scored his first touchdown since 2018 and has shown consistent bursts on the road.

The Chargers wanted Jackson to become the second running back, but injuries throughout his career derailed all of his progress.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Justin Herbert played his ninth 300-yard game of the season, but almost half of those yards came in the fourth quarter. For as well as Herbert did in most areas, the only area he struggles is to throw himself into narrow windows. He was 1 for 3 with an interception against the Texans.

Over the past three games, Herbert is 5-for-18 with one touchdown and two picks when the defenseman is within a yard or more of the receiver at the time of completion.

STORE

Dustin Hopkins scored three field goals, including 46 and 50 yards, and had a touchback on five of his six kickoffs. Hopkins is 15 of 16 on field goals since joining the Chargers on October 26. The 93.8% accuracy rate ties for the best start in franchise history.

SOLD OUT

Alohi Gilman has missed five tackles in the last two games he’s played, including three against the Texans. The sophomore safety missed five games with a quadriceps injury.

INJURIES

James was active, but didn’t play as he still suffers from a lingering hamstring problem. … Linebacker Drue Tranquill suffered a leg injury in the second half and is questionable for the week ahead. … Safety Alohi Gilman, offensive guard Senio Kelemete, defensive lineman Andrew Brown and outside linebacker Emeke Egbule have also been added to the COVID-19 roster.

KEY NUMBER

126 – Tackles this season by linebacker Kyzir White, the most by a Charger since Donnie Edwards was 143 in 2006.

NEXT STEPS

The shorthanded Chargers end the regular season with back-to-back divisional games, starting this week against Denver.

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