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Previewing the Jets’ Opposition: Los Angeles Chargers

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, this should be one of the Jets’ best chances to get a win from their remaining games, but the Chargers have been competitive despite losing three in a row to drop to 2-7. All seven of their losses this year have been by eight points or less, including strong efforts against good teams like the Chiefs, Bucs, Raiders and Saints. Can the Jets get their first win over the Chargers since 2011 and their first regular season win in Los Angeles since 1970?

Quarterbacks

Rookie Justin Herbert is set to his make ninth start for the Chargers and he’s been spectacular even though he’s only won one of those previous games. Herbert has a passer rating of over 100 having completed 67 percent of his passes and thrown 19 touchdown passes with just six interceptions. He’s also rushed for three scores.

Herbert got his opportunity after a Tyrod Taylor injury was followed up by a medical mishap. Taylor had won his only start 16-13 over the Bengals on opening day. He’s still listed as questionable with a rib injury.

Easton Stick, who has thrown just one NFL pass, is listed as the number three.

Offensive Line

The Chargers have had some disruption on the right side of the line. They brought in five-time Pro Bowler Trai Turner to play right guard but he’s been limited to just two appearances due to injuries and has struggled when he has played. Another veteran, Bryan Bulaga, has been consistent at right tackle, but he’s also missed three starts and has been dealing with an injury during the week, although he should play on Sunday.

The Chargers’ line was also hurt by Mike Pouncey’s season-ending hip surgery in September. Dan Feeney has started every game at center with Pouncey out and guard Forrest Lamp and tackle Sam Tevi have also started every game on the left side.

Tevi leads the team with four penalties and Lamp has struggled in the running game, although he hasn’t given up a sack all year.

The Chargers also lost one of their most versatile reserves when Ryan Groy also landed on injured reserve but a few of their reserves have started multiple games this year. Trey Pipkins has started three times in place of Bulaga and Tyree St. Louis and Cole Toner each started two games for Turner.

Scott Quessenberry and Storm Norton make up the rest of the rotation but have barely played.

Running Backs

The Chargers have also had some injury issues at running back where Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson recently went onto injured reserve.

Fourth round rookie Josh Kelley leads the team with 313 yards but only averages 3.2 per carry and the team doesn’t seem to consider him ready to be a lead back. Kelley has 19 catches, though, so he can be a good change of pace.

Two ex-Jets have been brought in to fill the void. Troymaine Pope had a productive game a few weeks ago in his first start, but then the Chargers brought Kalen Ballage up from the practice squad when Pope got hurt. He’s produced well over the last two games.

Undrafted rookie Gabe Nabers is the team’s fullback. He has two touchdown receptions.

Pass catchers

Last season, the Chargers had a couple of thousand-yard receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Allen is on that pace again with 65 catches, 690 yards and five scores, but Williams’ production is down slightly, although he does have one 100-yard game and another with 99 yards. He’s a big play threat, averaging 17 yards per catch, although he had averaged over 20 to lead the league last year.

Jalen Guyton is the Chargers’ third receiver as he has 14 receptions this year. Both Guyton and Allen produce from the slot as well as outside.

Tyron Johnson and two rookies - KJ Hill and Joe Reed - round out the rotation, but only have four catches between them. Both of Johnson’s catches were 50-yard plays though.

Tight end Hunter Henry is another good option with 37 receptions on the year. The main backup at tight end, Virgil Green, is now on injured reserve so Stephen Anderson has been listed as the number two, although he doesn’t have any catches yet this year. The number three, Donald Parham, has three catches but two of those were for a touchdown.

Defensive Line

The Chargers’ big defensive star is Joey Bosa and he’s due to make his return after missing time with a concussion. Bosa leads the team with 4.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits.

Melvin Ingram has no sacks yet this year, although he has generated plenty of pressure. Leading into this season, he had at least seven sacks in every season since 2014.

Uchenna Nwosu has done a decent job as the main reserve with 3.5 sacks. Isaac Rochell also gets regular playing time but Jesse Lemonier doesn’t play much on defense.

Inside, Justin Jones and Linval Joseph are listed as the starters. Jones is the Chargers’ best run defender. Off the bench, Jerry Tillery has had an impact as a pass rusher with three sacks but has been poor against the run.

Damion Square and Cortez Broughton are also available as cover, although Broughton doesn’t play much.

Linebackers

First round rookie Kenneth Murray has transitioned well into a full time role at linebacker, but Kyzir White is the Chargers’ leading tackler with 68 tackles. Denzel Perryman is also listed as a starter but typically plays in a rotational role.

Nick Vigil is the primary reserve, although he hasn’t played significant reps since week one. Malik Jefferson and Emeka Egbule are also available off the bench with Egbule sometimes also employed off the edge.

Defensive Backs

The Chargers’ secondary took a major hit during the offseason when Derwin James suffered a season-ending knee injury. Without James, Rayshawn Jenkins and Nasir Adderley have been starting at safety with veteran Jahleel Addae seeing occasional reps as a third safety and rookie Alohi Gilman in reserve.

Casey Heyward is the Chargers’ best cornerback and he’s currently on an $11 million per year contract. He missed some practice time in the week but should be good to go.

The other starter, Michael Davis, leads the team with seven passes defensed and had a pick-six earlier in the year; one of just four by the Chargers all season.

The Chargers are struggling for depth with ex-Jet Tevaughn Campbell having seen significant action over the past few weeks. However, veteran Chris Harris recently returned to practice and could be activated this weekend. Alternatively, the Chargers protected Donte Vaughn, so they could opt to activate him from the practice squad.

Special Teams

Michael Badgley is the Chargers’ kicker, but the so-called “Money Badger” has let the team down with seven missed kicks so far including a potential game winner against the Saints.

Punter Ty Long has been solid, but he’s had two punts blocked, including one for a touchdown in that same Saints game. Long snapper Cole Mazza has been listed as questionable after missing Friday’s practice due to illness, which could also disrupt the kicking game.

The return game is in the hands of two rookies. Reed has averaged 22.4 yards per kickoff return with a longest of 46 and Hill recently took over from King as the punt returner.

Vigil is the team’s most productive player in kick coverage with the likes of Egbule, Anderson and Nabers also contributing and Reed showing promise as a primary gunner.