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Depth tested on offense

Posted Oct 20, 2010

The health and status of several players could improve by Sunday, but there’s a chance the Chargers’ depth at receiver and other positions will become more necessary.

SAN DIEGO – The NFL’s No. 1 offense in terms of yards won’t know who will take the field Sunday until later this week.

Antonio Gates (toe), Ryan Mathews (ankle), Malcom Floyd (hamstring) and Legedu Naanee (hamstring) all missed Wednesday’s practice.

Head Coach Norv Turner said Floyd will not practice Thursday and earlier in the week he is unlikely to play against the Patriots. He’s optimistic Mathews will practice tomorrow and will wait and see on Gates and Naanee.

“(Our depth) is being tested as strongly as it could be tested,” Turner said. “Obviously today when we’re out there and the guys getting half the balls were Tutu (Seyi Ajirotutu) and Richard Goodman, you’re getting tested.”

The biggest solace, other than seeing Philip Rivers’ No. 17 under center, may be the offenses’ construction. Rivers has completed 77 passes to non-receivers, third-most in the NFL behind the Lions (108) and 49ers (79).

“That’s the nature of this offense,” said Randy McMichael, referring to the Don Coryell derivative he’s spent most of his career running. “You have guys that are going to catch the majority of the passes, but having a number of guys who have caught balls, know the offense and have a rhythm with Philip, it’s going to help a lot because we don’t know what’s going to happen this weekend.”

McMichael, who’s spent most of his career as a No. 1 option at tight end, wishes for Gates to be available Sunday against the Patriots. But he’s caught four of the six passes thrown his direction this year for 60 yards.

Then there’s Darren Sproles (15 catches), Jacob Hester (nine catches), Mathews (eight catches) and Tolbert (eight catches).

Floyd and Gates, admittedly, are primary targets. Both were in the NFL’s top five in receiving yards before injuries limited them against the Rams. But that gives Patrick Crayton and Buster Davis an opportunity.

Crayton topped 100 yards against St. Louis, and Davis, the team’s third-leading receiver behind Floyd and Gates, caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve dealt with injuries and having guys have to step up before,” Rivers said. “Certainly you’d love to have guys healthy, but the 45 we dress on Sunday, we’ll be expecting to play a good game.”

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY: Earlier this week, Turner said San Diego’s 2-4 start was all on him.

Expressing confidence in the players and coaches around him, Turner invited accountability to himself.

Stephen Cooper had a different opinion on who should shoulder the responsibility on Wednesday.

“Norv isn’t a guy that goes onto the field and tries to execute plays. I know as players we’re rallying behind him to try to get this win and get back on track so he doesn’t have to deal with this criticism,” Cooper said. “We’re happy to have him here and we’re looking forward to this game.”

The players have been well-prepared, Cooper said, and it’s up to them to execute.

“(These coaches) are the guys we respect and those are the guys putting the time and effort, staying here night in and night out to try to get us ready, and for us not to get the job done is negative,” Cooper said.

SAFETY FOCUS NOT NEW: The NFL has placed more emphasis on player and official safety in the last several seasons than ever, changing rules, enforcing others and evaluating ways to maintain a high safety standard.

After a series of helmet-to-helmet collisions during Week 6, the league publicly discussed imposing harsher penalties for egregious, dangerous collisions.

But the rules already are in place to prevent defensive players from launching into defenseless receivers and the league response is not knee-jerk, Turner said.

“It’s been one of the lead topics during the league meetings, during the owner’s meetings. It’s something that I think a lot of thought has been put into from where the rules have gone,” Turner said. “The number of those type of hits has gone down. It needs to be an emphasis and obviously they’re making it a strong emphasis.”

PRACTICE WEATHER: Cloudy, 64 degrees.

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