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Chargers review: Injuries, J.C. Jackson’s play worrisome after beating Broncos

Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next after the Chargers managed to take a 19-16 overtime victory from the Denver Broncos on Monday night at SoFi Stadium, thanks to some excellent special teams hustle and an injured kicker who refused to sit out:

INJURY CONCERNS

Wide receiver Keenan Allen, who has a hamstring injury, and center Corey Linsley, suffering from an illness, are expected to resume practicing with their teammates this week in preparation for possible returns to the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

So much for the good news from the Chargers’ perspective.

Running back Joshua Kelley sustained an MCL sprain during Monday’s game and will be sidelined for “weeks not days,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said during his Zoom call Tuesday. Isaiah Spiller and Larry Rountree III will “duke it out” in practice for playing time Sunday.

Tight end Donald Parham Jr. entered the concussion protocol after he was hurt Monday. He had his first three catches of the season in his second game after sitting out the first four games because of a hamstring injury. He suffered a season-ending concussion last December.

Kicker Dustin Hopkins will be out for between two to four weeks because of a hamstring injury suffered during Monday’s game. He went on to convert field goals of 31, 35, 37 and 39 yards, with the OT winner coming as he limped onto the field and his leg buckled after his final kick.

Staley said the Chargers would turn to Taylor Bertolet for their kicking duties on Sunday. Bertolet made three field goals and three extra points while filling in for Hopkins during the Chargers’ victory over the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 2. Hopkins sat out because of a quadriceps injury.

Will Clapp, who replaced Linsley on Monday, sustained a quadriceps injury that forced him from the game briefly. Brenden Jaimes replaced Clapp for seven snaps late in regulation time before Clapp returned to the field for the final minutes of the fourth quarter plus overtime.

JACKSON CONCERNS

Staley came right to the point when asked after Monday’s game why he benched cornerback J.C. Jackson in the second half and replaced him with Michael Davis, saying Jackson’s play “just wasn’t good enough in the first half and we felt like we needed to make a change.”

Of Davis, who helped to hold the Broncos to only a field goal in the second half, Staley said Monday, “I thought Mike gave us a chance in the second half. I liked the way that he played. He was ready. Proud of him. Proud of his teammates for helping him along, (and) his coaches.”

Jackson gave up two receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown in the first half, according to statistics compiled by the website Pro Football Focus. Notably, he was burned on a 47-yard pass play from Denver quarterback Russell Wilson to JK Hamler just before halftime.

“We just need to stay patient,” Staley said Tuesday when asked about Jackson’s lackluster play during the Chargers’ victory over the Broncos and also during his previous three games, as well. “(Monday) night wasn’t up to his standards or ours. We’ve just got to stay patient.”

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Asked if Jackson’s struggles in his first season with the Chargers after signing a five-year contract potentially worth $82.5 million after four stellar seasons with the New England Patriots were mental errors rather than physical ones, Staley said, “I think that’s fair to say.”

Jackson had 25 interceptions in four seasons with New England, including eight last season and a career-best nine in 2020. He earned the nickname “Mr. Interception.” But he has none in four games this season.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Despite a number of injuries to key players, including but not limited to those mentioned above, the Chargers have won three in a row, improved to 4-2 and are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West lead (the Chiefs currently hold the tiebreaker based on their head-to-head win last month). Recall, the Chargers are also without edge rusher Joey Bosa and left tackle Rashawn Slater.

The Chargers face the Seahawks on Sunday before reaching their bye week, which will give them a chance to mend a few wounds before continuing their season. A fourth consecutive victory, and a 5-2 record, would give them some significant momentum heading into November.

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