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Chargers Mailbag: J.C. Jackson, The Red-Zone Offense & Spiller's Potential Debut 


Welcome to the Chargers Mailbag! I'm Senior Writer Eric Smith, and I answer questions from the Bolt Fam each and every week.

Send in submissions for the Mailbag here on Twitter or by sending me an email.

Off we go…

A hot topic to start us off, so let's dive into it.

Among the more interesting developments Monday night took place in the secondary, where Michael Davis took over at cornerback for J.C. Jackson in the second half against Denver.

It's been an up-and-down season for Jackson so far. He looked great in training camp but then missed time with an ankle procedure before making his Bolts debut in Week 2.

Since then, he's made some plays and been on the wrong end of some others. Staley was asked Tuesday if mental errors were bothering Jackson.

"I think that's fair to say," Staley said. 

Staley also didn't sound overly concerned with Jackson, and noted he simply felt a change was needed at that particular time.

We now know that Jackson will be back in the starting lineup Sunday against the Seahawks, which Staley announced Wednesday.

"J.C. had a tough night the other night, but we're going to make sure we stay patient with him because he has all the tools we're looking for," Staley said. "I've got to do a better job coaching him, getting him in a comfort zone.

"We expect him to be out there this week and playing his brand of ball," Staley added. "He's going to learn a lot from what happened the other night … what he needs to do with his game, what we need to do as coaches. That's as much on me as anybody."

Jackson was known as a press-man corner in New England, and Staley said he's done that "most of the time for us." But the Chargers can't run that coverage every single play, and it will be up to Jackson and others around him to get on the same page if some sort of zone is called.

Staley noted that Jackson's struggles haven't been all schematic, either.

"It's us getting him in him in as good a rhythm as possible," Staley said. "I think it's practice time, meeting time, the consistency of that.

"That was delayed at the beginning of the season, and I think that caused a setback in terms of his development within our team, and getting him playing his game within our team," Staley added. "There's a lot of little things that go into that."

Personally, I'm going to give Jackson the benefit of the doubt right now, even if his play has been erratic.

It's tough to move across the country and change from the familiar surroundings you've known your whole professional career. In the long run, here's to hoping to Jackson can find his groove and get back to being the elite player he's shown to be.

Because if he can find his game in the second half of the season, that would bode well for the Bolts defense for a potential playoff push.

In terms of Monday night's performance, when the Chargers scored once on four trips inside the 20-yard line, some credit needs to go to the Broncos defense.

That unit is legit, as they also happen to be the NFL's top red-zone defense at 26.67 percent, which is the top mark by a wide margin.

The Bolts rank 24th overall through six games, as they have scored touchdowns on 12 of their 25 trips (48 percent) inside the red zone.

That isn't a great percentage, and it's one you expect to be higher given the potential of the Bolts offense.

But let's keep in mind that Corey Linsley has missed 10 quarters so far this season. He makes such a big impact on the offense overall, but especially down in a critical area where space is limited and points are at a premium.

Go back and look at a red-zone touchdown the Chargers did score — the 12-yard screen pass to Austin Ekeler against the Browns — and see who was out in front making the first block that sprung the whole play. Yep, it was Linsley.

I also think the Chargers red-zone offense, and the overall offense in general, will get a massive boost when Keenan Allen returns.

The man has 48 career touchdowns, 35 of which have come from 20 yards or fewer. That means more than 75 of his touchdown catches come in the red zone, a place where he has made his living.

And, to further illustrate this point, all but one of Allen's touchdown catches from Justin Herbert has come inside the 20-yard line.

When the Bolts are fully (or mostly) healthy on offense, and that includes the return of both Linsley and Allen, I expect the red-zone success to creep up to higher totals than what we've seen in the first six games.

Joshua Kelley suffered a sprained MCL against the Broncos, and Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said the running back is expected to miss between two to four weeks.

That's a blow to the offense, as Kelley had come on as the No. 2 running back by averaging a career-best 4.5 yards per carry this season. 

Now, either Isaiah Spiller or Larry Rountree III will get a chance to be active Sunday against the Seahawks, likely in a role behind Austin Ekeler and Sony Michel.

Here's what Staley said Tuesday about that duo:

"Isaiah and Larry will duke it out in practice this week," Staley said. "We were kind of doing that last week, as well. I think one of those two guys will be going into the game.

"Special teams will factor into it, as well. Isaiah has been doing really well in practice, as I have told you guys. Larry has, too," Staley added. "We'll let those guys compete and we'll let you know at the end of the week."

So, we'll see how that shakes out and which player earns the nod for Sunday.

A final note on this, there were plenty of puzzled people on Twitter on Tuesday when Staley said the two would battle for a spot, with most people assuming Spiller would just get the nod.

And he very well may, but he has to earn that first. I understand that Spiller has a lot of fans who want to see him on the field, but nobody is simply handed anything in this league.

Staley said last week that he wants competition throughout the roster, whether that's between Nasir Adderley and Alohi Gilman at safety or with a pair of young running backs fighting for playing time.

Healthy competition is only going to bring out the best of any player, and will only make the Bolts a stronger team.

Parham suffered a concussion Monday and missed most of the second half against Denver.

Staley said Tuesday that the team will be cautious with Parham, especially given what happened last year with the tight end.

"We'll make sure that we take our time," Staley said. "I think that we have the advantage of the bye week coming up here, and we'll make sure that we take full advantage of whatever time frame is needed for him to feel his best."

To me, that sounds like we won't see Parham against the Seahawks, as they'll give him extra time to heal up.

You have to feel for Parham, especially since he missed the first four weeks of the season with a hamstring injury.

I thought he was effective and impactful Monday, as his 53 receiving yards were the second-most among all Chargers on Monday, and that came on just three catches.

Parham showed his potential there, but it's best for him to return only when he's fully healthy.

I answered a similar question last week, and I suspect I'll likely get more trade deadline questions before the Nov. 1 deadline.

As of now right, I wouldn't put too high a chance on the Chargers making a super splashy move.

The Bolts have around $5 million in cap space, which is enough to add a solid player but not a pricey one. 

I don't expect them to be sellers, because this team is 4-2 with a strong roster and playoff aspirations.

But I also don't think they will be buyers either, because the roster is strong, and there aren't a ton of roles available for playing time.

In short, expect the Bolts to likely stand pat and go with the roster they have, which is among the top ones in the league.

That will do it for this week.

As always, you can find me on Twitter at @EricLSmithand submit your questions for the Chargers Mailbag. 

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