COSTA MESA — Status quo for wide receiver Keenan Allen this past week meant stretching with his teammates before practice and catching a few passes while running easily through a handful of pass patterns before heading to the sideline to run strides at roughly 70% of his top speed.
Allen isn’t expected to play in the Chargers’ game Monday night against the Denver Broncos, but coach Brandon Staley made it clear the five-time Pro Bowl selection made significant progress from a nagging hamstring injury sustained in the first half of the season-opening game Sept. 11.
If Allen can’t play Monday, then he will have been sidelined for five consecutive games. He was officially listed Saturday as doubtful to play Monday.
What will it take for Allen to get back in the Chargers’ lineup?
“I think getting him in the 11-on-11 (drills), where, hey, you’re going against somebody,” Staley said Saturday. “You need to be able to do that before you go out there and play. I think just getting that last bit of practice underneath him (will do it), but we’re headed in the right direction.”
Allen, 30, also appeared headed in the right direction several weeks ago, but a setback during practice in the days before the Chargers’ victory Oct. 2 over the Houston Texans sidelined him for all of the week that followed and for their win last Sunday over the Cleveland Browns.
Allen rejoined the Chargers this week for the portions of their practices Wednesday, Friday and Saturday open to reporters, prompting Staley to say he was “getting closer, but still day to day. It’s been good to get him out there in practice. … He’s been progressing well, so hopefully, he stays on track.”
HERBERT STATUS REPORT
Quarterback Justin Herbert looked robotic and ill-at-ease in his first game after fracturing his rib cartilage in the fourth quarter of the Chargers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, clearly not at his best during a lopsided defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3.
He’s looked better and better in each game since the Chargers’ loss to the Jaguars, guiding them to victories the past two weeks. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t know he was suffering from a potentially debilitating injury that could grind the Chargers’ high-power offense to a halt.
“I think it’s getting better,” Herbert said. “I think time is the best help.”
Chargers’ offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was a bit more expansive during an interview Friday.
“I think he’s feeling better every week,” Lombardi said. “The thing that he is doing so well is protecting the football. We’re not getting sacked and I think a big part of that is, obviously, the offensive line and the tight ends and the running backs and the receivers getting open.
“He bails us out of a lot of situations with the clock in his head and getting rid of the ball if he feels the protection is breaking down. He’s just keeping us out of bad situations. He’s tremendous at it. When he has the opportunity, we know that he makes incredible plays. I think he’s doing fantastic.”
HELLO, OLD FRIEND
Broncos running back Melvin Gordon played for the Chargers from 2015-19, gaining more than 4,200 yards rushing and nearly 2,000 yards receiving. He also served as a mentor for Austin Ekeler in his first three seasons in the league, as well as a role model and a source of inspiration.
Gordon and Ekeler will meet again as rivals when the Chargers play host to the Broncos on Monday at SoFi Stadium.
“Melvin’s my guy,” Ekeler said. “He led the path for me here. He showed me the ropes. I’ll forever have respect for that guy. I remember being the young pup and seeing him talk to people in interviews and things like that. Just having us bounce ideas off each other and us being that duo, that tandem in the backfield, was really special. I’ll always have respect for him as long as I live.”
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Right tackle Trey Pipkins III was listed as questionable to play Monday because of a sprained left knee suffered during the Chargers’ victory last Sunday over the Browns. His participation in practice the past three days was limited. …’
Staley said he expected kicker Dustin Hopkins (quad) to play. …
Center Corey Linsley had a fever and stayed home Saturday. Staley called it a “24-hour thing” and expected him to play.