The Los Angeles Chargers were one of the more healthier teams heading into Week 15. But several key players are now banged up after going into battle against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Health was on the Chargers’ side for once, but it appears that luck has ended.
We knew this wasn’t going to last long. Wide receiver Keenan Allen, running back Austin Ekeler, offensive tackles Russell Okung and Joseph Barksdale, defensive tackle Corey Liuget and linebacker Denzel Perryman all exited Saturday night’s game vs. the Chiefs. Tight end Hunter Henry, who left for a few plays, did not get ruled out.
The bad news: Ekeler is dealing with a broken hand but will try to play, Liuget is expected to miss some time due to a Grade 2 PCL sprain, Perryman suffered a hamstring strain and will miss at least next week’s game against the New York Jets, Henry’s status is up in the air after having a small laceration in his kidney and both Okung and Barksdale are day-to-day with their respective injuries. Meanwhile, head coach Anthony Lynn said Allen is fine.
The Chargers can’t afford to lose Okung, who’s been the team’s best offensive lineman. The Chargers have done exceptionally well in pass protection before Saturday, but now we’ve seen what can happen when Philip Rivers has no time. There are no backups capable of replacing the veteran left tackle. The same can be said for Henry, who’s the team’s second-best offensive weapon behind Allen (tied for first?). Liuget has played well this year in a limited role, but Darius Philon is no slouch. Losing Perryman? The defense will go back to not being able to stop the run, which is what happened when he left Saturday’s game. Kareem Hunt is still giving me nightmares.
As for Ekeler, he’s been quite the surprise this season. The undrafted rookie out of Western State Colorado University took over as the change-of-pace back to Melvin Gordon, a role that’s been sorely missed since the departure of Danny Woodhead. Ekeler has 260 rushing yards, 279 receiving yards and five total touchdowns on the year. Unfortunately, many will remember him for his two costly fumbles: One against the Jaguars with less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter with the Chargers in front, and his most recent one against the Chiefs when the Chargers were driving early in the fourth down by seven. That said, he’s a key part of the offense and his loss would hurt the Chargers. Branden Oliver would likely replace Ekeler should the latter miss the rest of the season.
The Chargers are losing guys at the worst possible time. They are fighting for their playoff lives and must win out, as well as get help, in order to sneak in. Let’s see if they are able to bounce back from that rough loss in Kansas City.