Sat, 03 Dec 2022

Eric Smith

Week 4 is on the horizon.

Here are five final thoughts ahead of the Chargers-Texans matchup:

1. Justin Herbert is ready to go

Unlike a week ago, there's no air of mystery surrounding Justin Herbert.

The Chargers quarterback practiced in full Thursday and Friday and wasn't even given a game status for Week 4.

That's a contrast to last week, when it was unknown up until game time if Herbert would play.

Herbert and Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said this week that there's a little more clarity and comfortability when it comes to approaching this week compared to last.

"That's the tough part," Herbert said. "Having to play with an injury like that, you have to kind of go through and learn about it.

"I had never experienced anything like that during a game and having to play through that and kind of figure it out, obviously, it was a tough loss for us," Herbert added. "Didn't play the way that we needed to, but a good learning moment and hopefully we learned a lot from it."

Staley added: "There were a lot of unknowns going into the game of how he was going to feel. I think that him getting past that first quarter - first half, for sure - you just know how your body is feeling. I thought that he finished the game well. Normal soreness after the game. This week, we just have a lot more certainty in terms of how to manage it moving forward. I think that is the big thing, it's always going to be day-to-day, but getting last week out of the way, I think that we have a much better plan of attack moving forward."

Now, the focus is on getting a win against the Texans. And in order for that to happen, that will likely mean a better start for the Bolts offense, which punted twice and turned the ball over twice on the first four drives against Jacksonville.

Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi put the sluggish start on his shoulders.

"I probably made it a little murkier than it needed to be. I think he was truly a game-time decision," Lombardi said. "Pregame, he was like, 'Look, I am good. Don't worry about it.'

"I probably was a little cautious at first, wanting to see how it was going," Lombardi added. "I think he was fine. I should have listened and internalized what he was saying and how he was feeling a little bit more."

Through three games, Herbert ranks fifth in the NFL with 910 passing yards, and has seven touchdowns to two interceptions.

The 24-year-old said Friday he's appreciative of the organization for helping him recover of late.

"I think I learned a lot about our team and about our staff members," Herbert said. "The medical staff, the treatment staff that have put in so much work over the past couple of weeks to help me be at my best and help me to get out on that field.

"They have handled it all so well and I have complete trust in them, especially all of the teammates around us," Herbert added.

In other news, Keenan Allen is out for Sunday with a hamstring injury.

"Definitely not a major setback, but he didn't make enough progress to make it to the game," Staley said of Allen.

J.C. Jackson will start, and Staley expects Corey Linsley to start, too.

2. No panic here

Linsley has been here before.

Back in 2014, Linsley was a rookie with the Packers, who also started 1-2 early that season.

Green Bay turned their season around by winning four straight games, and nine of the next 10 games overall.

Linsley described the mindset a team has to have to deal with some early-season struggles.

"We got blown out by the Seahawks, we had to come back to beat the Jets and then we got beaten up by Detroit, at Detroit and that was my rookie year," Linsley said. "There's nothing that we did different throughout the year. It wasn't like we started trying harder or brought somebody in or change our philosophy of who we were.

"It's just this league. This will happen, but the biggest point of emphasis is to stay the course,' Linsley continued. "You can sit here and be like 'Oh my god, 1-2.'

"I mean it's three games in, you know what I mean. We know what the issues are, we know what we have to fix," Linsley added. "As long as we do that, as long as we stay the course then we're going to be fine. I mean, that's about it."

Staley said: "We get the opportunity to respond from last week. I think that's the first thing, we get to respond to a tough loss and to make those adjustments that you have to make in the NFL when things change. I think that we've had a good week of practice. Now, we have to make sure that we take the field the right way on Sunday."

The Chargers are one of 13 teams across the league who are 1-2 ahead of Week 4.

3. Focused on 3rd-down defense

The Chargers defense currently ranks 23rd in total third-down defense entering, with the Bolts allowing opponents to convert 44.74 percent of the time.

Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill said that side of the ball is aware of the need to be better there.

"We've been definitely trying to put a focus on third down. I think it really ties into first down," Hill said. "Can we not let those yards bleed and get into third-and-shorts? See if we can get them into some longer situations. It's trying to get them into longer situations.

"We looked at our third downs, there were a ton of third-and-1 and third-and-2, and our guys played really great in those areas, but we definitely don't want to live in that area," Hill added. "Trying to get them into some situations where we can play a little coverage and tie that into the rush, that would be ideal for us."

The Chargers have faced 13 scenarios already this season where opposing offenses have had third-and-3 or less.

And the Bolts have fared well, allowing just four conversions in such situations (30.8 percent). But as Hill said, the preference would be for the opponent to face third-and-7 or longer and make it even tougher on the offense.

4. Find some explosive plays

Through three games, the Chargers offense has lacked a spark, specifically when it comes to explosive plays.

The Bolts rank last in the league with just 11 such plays, which are categorized as a run of 10-plus yards, or a pass play of 20-plus yards.

The Chargers have 10 explosive plays through the air, but just one on the ground, which was a 12-yard run by Joshua Kelley in the third quarter of Week 1.

Lombardi said he expects more explosive plays if the Bolts can get their run game going.

"I think that if we are a little more efficient in the running game, that will help. It will make it not as hard in the passing game," Lombardi said. "I think executing on third downs will be a big thing, as well. It hasn't been up to what we are used to.

"I think getting the running game going a little bit more and getting a little more explosives in the passing game and converting on third down will lead to more points," Lombardi added.

For what it's worth, the Texans have allowed 29 explosive plays through three games against the Colts, Broncos and Bears.

5. Newcomers in the spotlight

The spotlight will be on a pair of Bolts young players Sunday in Houston.

Jamaree Salyer will make his first career start at left tackle, as the rookie will play in place of Rashawn Slater, who is expected to miss the rest of season with a biceps injury.

Staley said the team has full confidence in Salyer to perform well as a starter.

"He has real poise. He was a captain in Georgia, you can see that. Talking to [Georgia Head Coach] Kirby [Smart], who I'm very close with, he's the guy that really led that football team, a National Championship team," Staley said. "He's rugged. He's really strong. We know that the moment is not going to be too big for him, that he has that poise.

"He's just has to get out there and play. We're going to make sure that we play well around him," Staley added. 'It's not going to be him out there on an island playing left tackle, it's going to be 10 other players that he's playing with. I'm excited to see him compete, though. When you asked me about concern, I'm not concerned about him. I know what type of competitor he is. We're going to play really well around him."

Lombardi added: "He's another one of these guys we talk about, Rashawn and [G] Zion [Johnson]; he's cut from the same cloth. He's mature beyond what you would expect from a guy of his age."

Salyer played left tackle at Georgia and helped lead the Bulldogs to a national championship in 2021.

Chris Rumph II is also expected to start in place of Joey Bosa, who underwent successful groin surgery this week. Rumph is also in line to make the first start of his career.

Staley said Rumph will need to be ready to play meaningful defensive snaps and continue to be a presence on special teams, too.

"We still need him on special teams, so he's going to definitely stay in a lead role. There could be a subtraction of a role, maybe, but we still expect for him to be a factor," Staley said.

Bolt Up for 2022!

Secure your 2022 Season Ticket Memberships today! Click here to learn more.

More Detroit News

Access More

Sign up for Detroit News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!