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Los Angeles Chargers down but far from out after difficult preseason

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 07: Free safety Derwin James #33 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up before the game against the Oakland Raiders at StubHub Center on October 7, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 07: Free safety Derwin James #33 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up before the game against the Oakland Raiders at StubHub Center on October 7, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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By most measures, the Los Angeles Chargers have had a disappointing preseason as injuries take their toll. Yet, the team still looks dangerous and exciting as the regular season approaches.

After the conclusion of the last important game of the preseason, the Los Angeles Chargers will enter the regular season with numerous obstacles before the real tests have even begun.

While the team avoided major injuries during preseason games themselves with Anthony Lynn wisely rested his starters, training camp and other preseason work has taken its toll on the roster.

To summarize:

  • Derwin James is out of commission until November or December with a foot injury
  • Lynn has no idea if Trevor Williams will be ready to play by Week One
  • The Chargers’ top two picks, Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderley, have missed valuable learning time with injuries during the preseason
  • Melvin Gordon looks ready to hold out into the season
  • Russell Okung’s timetable for a return to the Chargers is completely unclear following a pulmonary embolism.

The Chargers were a clear loser this preseason.

But do not let you get that down too much about the Chargers’ hopes this season.

While each of these player absences are significant, the depth behind these players provides some promise (in most cases).

James is clearly the most talented player lost by the Chargers this preseason. Without him, the Chargers defense clearly drops in rank among the league. However, the players likely picking up the majority of the slack for his absence are both Pro-Bowl players: Adrian Phillips and Desmond King.

Adrian Phillips is working at strong safety with 1s with Derwin James out.

— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) August 16, 2019

In the absence of Melvin Gordon, the Chargers are clearly weaker at the running back position, but it is easy to get excited about seeing what Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson can do alone after the Chargers went 4-0 last season without Gordon.

While the loss of Williams for an unknown amount of time is significant, it can also be overcome. Michael Davis started all of last season and played adequately, earning a grade of 66.8 from Pro Football Focus.

Okung’s loss is very significant without a decent backup available for his spot (based on preseason play of his current backups). However, there are several free agent options available at the offensive tackle position for Tom Telesco to choose from if he wishes. Furthermore, Okung was seen working out pre-game with Mike Pouncey last week, so his return may not be that far off.

One last factor that causes these losses to be less significant than they may initially appear is the schedule.

As a team with clear playoff and Super Bowl aspirations, the Chargers’ goal needs to be to win the division. While more difficult to do without some of their best players, the team may be getting those same men back when the most important part of the schedule arrives.

Half of the Chargers divisional games and, vitally, both games against the Kansas City Chiefs fall in the last six weeks of the season. By the first game of that stretch on November 18th, Okung, Gordon, and Williams should return, Tillery and Adderley should be up to speed, and James should be close to returning as well.

The 2019 Los Angeles Chargers Schedule pic.twitter.com/bh4eQE2yNT

— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 18, 2019

Next. Chargers rookies who could start Week One

Even with the losses suffered in the preseason, many recent power rankings still have the Chargers as a Top-10 team. While they likely need to be one of the NFL’s five best teams to win the division and have a good shot at a deep playoff run, there is time for the Chargers to get there over the course of a long season.

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