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Chargers Mailbag: Herbert's Health Status, Bolts Run Game & Looking Ahead to Jacksonville

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

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Off we go…

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley spoke with media members Wednesday and to no one's surprise, the topic of the day was the health of quarterback Justin Herbert.

Staley said Herbert did some light throwing Tuesday and was able to get some rest during the mini-bye, but the team will continue to take things with the star quarterback one day at a time.

"Justin is day-to-day, I think he's gotten a lot of rest since the last game," Staley said. "But the nature of the week, it will truly be a case-by-case, day-by-day basis.

"I know he's feeling more comfortable and was able to do some light throwing [Tuesday], some rotational work," Staley added. "We're going to take it day-by-day and see where his comfort level is. Truly trust him, and let him be the guide of where we're at."

So what will the process for determining whether Herbert plays this Sunday look like?

"We're going to listen to Justin, No.1," Staley said. "The player is at the front of all of the decisions that we make here, since I've become the head coach, to make sure that the players are at the front of all of the decision-making — their families, their agents, their team.

"Then, making sure that we have alignment with the medical team. That's been my position since I've become the head coach," Staley continued. "I think that that is where the modern NFL is, in making sure that they are at the front of every decision that we make and that they have long careers ahead of them. We have to make sure that they are as safe and sound as possible.

"We know that it is a tough game, and we want to make sure that they are able to play it," Staley added. "Just try to have full communication amongst all of those parties, and then come to a good decision there each and every time that we go out there."

Finally, Staley noted that if Herbert is unable to play, Chase Daniel would get the start in his place. Having an experienced, veteran backup – especially in Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi's system – isn't a luxury all teams have, and you can bet Daniel will prepare this week to be the starter, just as he does every week.

Backup quarterbacks are always just one play away from going in, and the Chargers have a good one in Daniel.

"Chase has done this his whole career. We've had to do this before. Chase is going to be ready to play," Staley said of Daniel, who has played in 71 career games with five starts. "During the week, if Justin is full-go for the week, then he doesn't get any of the team reps in walk-through and stuff like that, but he'll take the work team [reps].

"But if he's the guy that is practicing out there, then he will take the lion's share of the reps and we'll be ready to go," Staley added.

Staley didn't seem overly concerned with the rest of that group of them when he addressed them Wednesday.

Every player was deemed day-to-day, and Pipkins was going through individual drills at the start of Wednesday's practice.

Staley said it wasn't a particular play against the Chiefs where Linsley was injured, and that the hope is that he plays against the Jaguars.

Same goes for Pipkins, who is dealing with a foot issue from Thursday night's game.

There was also an update on Keenan Allen, as he also went through individual drills Wednesday. He's been dealing with a hamstring issue but there remains a chance he could also see the field against the Jaguars.

In another bit of good news, Parham was back at practice on Wednesday. That's significant because he hadn't practiced in a while, including the first two weeks of the season.

Like most players who are banged up, time will tell if Parham plays Sunday. But if he does, the Bolts will surely use his 6-foot-8 frame in multiple areas.

That includes the passing game, where Parham routinely flashed in camp. And he could add something as a blocker, too, for a Chargers run game that has been a bit stuck in the mud so far.

Speaking of…

No doubt the Bolts rushing attack has been a little slow to go this far, as the Chargers are tied for 28th with 75.5 rushing yards per game, and rank 31st in the league with 2.75 yards per carry.

Some of this is due to the fact that the Chargers have held the lead in both second halves through two games, and opposing defenses can key in on the run game.

But it's probably also a little bit due to a lack of execution, something running back Austin Ekeler alluded to in the locker room Wednesday.

"It comes down to the same thing we try to fix every single week," Ekeler said. "It's all in our consistency and fundamentals.

"All the plays in the NFL are made within the fundamentals and anything on top of that is your given ability," Ekeler added. "It starts with what we practice every single day."

That includes all 11 players on the field, whether it's the linemen, tight end or wide receivers holding their blocks, or the running backs having the correct vision and hitting a lane with decesiveness.

Staley on Friday also commented on the run game.

"I think it's just been tough sledding early on. We haven't been able to get the explosions," Staley said.

There's no doubt the Chargers want to run the ball consistently, as it would take some pressure off the passing attack and also wear down a defense.

But with a talent like Herbert at quarterback (especially when he's fully healthy), he's the guy you want with the ball the majority of the time.

Nobody is asking for the Bolts to suddenly run for 200 yards per game. But if they can get a few more 8-plus yard runs mixed in, that would go a long way into helping out the entire unit.

Guyton has played just 13 offensive snaps in the first two games, getting five against the Raiders and eight against the Chiefs.

Those numbers may seem a little surprising since Keenan Allen missed six-plus quarters in those games with his hamstring injury, but the Bolts simply relief more on Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer and DeAndre Carter rather than Guyton.

Staley actually talked about Guyton on Friday and compared him to outside linebacker Chris Rumph II, who has played 18 defensive snaps so far this season.

"There are always players like that. Chris Rumph was another guy for us, on defense, that we would have liked to play more," Staley said. "I think that you look back on it and you say, 'Man, we didn't get him enough playing time,' but we're definitely trying to look to get Jalen more involved, same with a guy like Chris Rumph.

"Sometimes, how the plan goes, and then the possessions, it just didn't quite work out that way, but definitely not indicative of anything that Jalen is doing," Staley added. "Jalen is doing really well for us, so expect to see a lot more of him forward."

Overall, I wouldn't be overly concerned with Guyton's snap counts, as teams usually have three receivers at most on the field at a time. In fact, the Chargers ran just 12 offensive plays in all of 2021 with four or more receivers on the field.

Guyton offers solid depth and will likely be needed at some point, it just hasn't been in the first two games of the season.

As of now, they aren't really doing that. Woods was active in Week 1 but played just two snaps on special teams and none on defense before being inactive in Week 2.

Kind of like the answer above, but defenses will usually employ three safeties at most, which the Bolts sometimes do. In these situations, Adderley and Gilman are typically in the secondary at the usual safety spots, while Derwin James, Jr., could be anywhere on the field.

Coaches like Woods' skillset, even if his tackling was a bit of an issue in training camp and the preseason. But some players simply take some time to develop, and it's fair to give Woods time to find his way in the league.

Not really concerned about it.

We just covered Woods, and he's at a position with plenty of skill and depth. I don't know if he'll continue to be inactive as he was in Week 2, but it appears his best chance at playing time right now is making an impact on special teams.

As for Isaiah Spiller, he's also at a position with plenty of clout ahead of him on the roster. Austin Ekeler is going to get his touches, while Joshua Kelley has flashed so far and Sony Michel was added for a reason in a trade.

Once again, players progress at their own rate and timeline as rookies, and that's OK. You aren't going to get a Rashawn Slater-type season from every single draft pick, that's just not the way it works.

Spiller appears to be fully healthy after dealing with an ankle injury at the end of the preseason, so perhaps he'll be active soon and incorporated into the offensive gameplan a bit.

A lot of good things, which is expected when your opponent is coming off a 24-0 win against a division foe.

The Jaguars are 1-1 and could easily be 2-0 if they had held a fourth-quarter lead in Week 1 against the Commanders.

"The way that they won last week, it certainly grabs your attention," Staley said.

Staley rattled off a whole list of things that he's impressed by with Jacksonville, beginning with quarterback Trevor Lawrence and head coach Doug Pederson.

Lawrence, Staley said, has tremendous poise, something he's shown since he was a top recruit coming out of high school. There's a reason he was a star in college and ended up being the No. 1 overall pick in 2021.

And Pederson is a Super Bowl-winning head coach who has seemingly turned around the culture in Jacksonville in only a few short months.

"He's played quarterback in this league, at the highest level, played for a lot of different franchises around a lot of special players. He was a great player himself," Staley said. "As a coach, obviously, he's worked for a lot of quality franchises. He's a Super Bowl champion.

"I think that he has all the confidence in the world, from a resumé standpoint," Staley added. "Then, from a personality standpoint, knowing what needs to be done when he gets there and surrounding yourself with good people and good players

Yes, the Jaguars haven't won a road game since the end of the 2019 season, but the Bolts are in for a tough task Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

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

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