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SAN DIEGO – A year ago, the Chargers’ offense was operating with several spare parts.
Philip Rivers and Mike Tolbert remained constants, but San Diego spent a great deal of mental and physical energy keeping its output up without some important players. That was especially true as the Bolts squeezed out a second-half comeback against Tennessee and won its first road game of the season in Houston before the bye.
San Diego won’t be forced to deploy a makeshift unit for as long of a stretch this season as the bye coincided more favorably with the team’s health, allowing Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, Ryan Mathews, Tolbert and others time to shrug off some lingering issues or short-term bumps. The additional time could help Antonio Gates and Jacques Cesaire back onto the field. A later bye may have required some of those players to miss more time or to grit through a few games at less than 100 percent.
“I’m really a little bit surprised we’re playing as well as we are right now with all the moving parts we’ve had in the passing game and all the different defensive players (injured). We’ve played so many guys,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “It could be a situation where we didn’t have the record we have (4-1). I hope we can get all our guys back, and then I think we’ll get a little better rhythm.”
Mathews and Tolbert, who have combined for more than 1,000 scrimmage yards this season, each left the Chargers’ last game in Denver with injuries. Though Head Coach Norv Turner did not reveal their status after Monday’s practice and the team is not required to release a participation report until Wednesday afternoon, Turner said before the bye week he expects both his feature backs to be available in New York. That might not have been the case had San Diego played Sunday.
Only Luis Castillo (tibia) is a solid bet to remain out this week against the Jets.
The bye also gave recent defensive acquisitions Tommie Harris and Gerald Hayes more time to get acquainted with Greg Manusky’s 3-4 defense. Steve Gregory has gotten more practice reps with the starting defense after taking over for Bob Sanders three games ago, and Paul Oliver has had an extended period to get further re-acquainted with teammates and the defense since signing Sept. 22.
San Diego plays a unique schedule in the next month, with 14 days between the Denver and New York games, eight days between the New York and Kansas City games, six days between the Kansas City and Green Bay games and four days between the Green Bay and Oakland games. The coaching staff and players got their biggest physical and mental rest of the season at the beginning of that stretch, which also allowed for extra preparation ahead of the abnormal logistics.
PREPARING FOR LT: The Chargers are handling preparations for former San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson just like they do for every potential impact player: studying how he’s being utilized and figuring out the best way to counteract that.
No longer a starter, Tomlinson has been a force catching the ball. He’s averaging a career-best 13.1 yards per reception as the Jets’ third down back and is on pace for nearly 600 receiving yards, which would be the second-best mark of his career (2003).
“They have a specific package they’re using when he’s in the game. They’re spreading you out,” Turner said. “He’s still playing awfully well as a receiver and he’s hit some big runs. We’re just trying to zero in on the things they’ve done when he’s in the game. But from an emotional standpoint, we’re getting ready for the Jets (like any other team).” Read