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5 Takeaways: Bolts Focused on Turnover Margin As Attention Shifts to Patriots

5T Monday 11.27

The Chargers are 4-7 as they shift to a Week 13 road game against the Patriots.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley's Monday media availability:

1. Focused on the turnover battle

The Chargers are looking to snap a three-game skid as they head to New England this weekend.

Their biggest mission this week?

Win the turnover battle, something the Bolts have not done in each of their past three games.

The Chargers had four total turnovers Sunday night against Baltimore — including three lost fumbles — that played a key role in the final result.

"We turned the ball over four times and you're going to have a really difficult time winning against a team like that. That is where our focus is," Staley said.

The Chargers have lost the turnover battle by a combined 6-0 margin in their past three games as the defense hasn't forced a takeaway since Week 9 against the Jets.

The Bolts are still 11th overall in the NFL with a plus-3 margin, but they have dropped off from where they were at the midpoint of the season.

"Weeks 1-11, we were the top team in the NFL in terms of fewest amount of giveaways," Staley said. "And to give it away three times, one of them happening in the red area, it's going to be challenging to win.

"We've got to start there with our ball security, with everybody who touches the football and then work from there," Staley added.

Entering Week 10, the Bolts had played 11 straight games without losing the turnover battle, which was the longest active streak in the NFL. That was also the Chargers longest stretch of doing so since 2004, when they did it in 14 straight games.

New England has the NFL's second-worst turnover margin at minus-8.

Take a look back at the Chargers Week 12 game against the Ravens in monochrome

2. An update on Johnston

Quentin Johnston played 29 snaps Sunday night before exiting the game with a rib injury.

Staley on Monday provided an update on the Chargers wide receiver.

"No news to report. X-rays were negative and things like that so he should be at practice this week," Staley said. "Just a little bit sore."

Staley also added that with Johnston not feeling 100 percent with the injury, the decision was made to play with other wide receivers.

"He had an injury that we didn't feel like within the flow of the game where him going into the game was going to give us that best chance," Staley said. "We didn't feel like he was 100 percent and at the end of the game we felt comfortable with the guys that ended up playing. Not an indictment on Quentin at all. No storyline there at all."

Staley later added on Johnston:

"He was cleared to go back in, but he was clearly not 100 percent and it was still bothering him to an extent. Just felt like rolling with those other guys was the smartest thing until he felt like he was good enough to go. It was just a combination of trainers, coaches, flow of the game, all that good stuff. He's sore today but he should be able to practice this week."

3. Leonard gets starting nod

Deane Leonard made his second start of the season in Week 12, with the other coming two games ago against the Lions.

Staley said the second-year cornerback had an improved performance in primetime.

"It was better than it was in the Detroit game," Staley said.

Leonard was one of four Chargers to play all 71 defensive snaps against the Ravens.

Staley on Monday said Leonard, a 2022 seventh-round pick, showed plenty of fight and toughness.

"The thing that stands out to me is that he really competed in the game. I thought that he stayed mentally tough, gave up a couple completions on the backside there but just never let that affect his mind," Staley said. "I thought he got better as the game went on, I thought he got into rhythm, I thought he was aggressive, I thought he was mentally sharp, made some really good tackles.

"When he missed tackles, he missed them back to his leverage, he missed them back to the help and to the pursuit of the defense," Staley continued. "I also thought he was really good at gunner to too, despite starting at corner. I thought he was still able to maintain that high level outside as our gunner.

"There's going to be a lot to improve on fundamentally and there's some things, like all players, you've got to improve," Staley added. "But we felt like it was a winning performance from him."

Leonard started in place of Michael Davis at outside cornerback.

4. Hawkins sees extended action

Jaylinn Hawkins also saw an expanded defensive role Sunday night.

The safety, who was added to the roster in mid-October, registered a start as the Chargers opened the game in a three-safety look.

Hawkins ended up playing 17 total snaps as the third safety alongside Derwin James, Jr. and Alohi Gilman.

The 26-year old Hawkins, who was a 2020 fourth-round pick by Atlanta, has now started 23 career games while appearing in 52.

Staley on Monday provided further context on how Hawkins has transitioned to the team, which included him getting more run Sunday night.

"Did work on him coming out. He played [in Atlanta] for Arthur Smith, who is a really good friend of mine. Played in some good defenses, I thought he was well coached," Staley said. "He's got a good background in the secondary as far as how he's been trained. We were looking for a guy who could deepen our secondary. He's played a lot of football in the NFL.

"He's a young player, but he's started a lot of games, played on special teams," Staley continued. "Just felt like he's got really good athleticism for the position, got a good size. He's been really good to work with.

"We wanted to make sure that he knew our system before we put him out there, we wanted to make sure that he truly understood how we play," Staley added. "There's a transition that needs to take place, but he was proving himself on the practice field and proving that he deserved an opportunity and I thought he did a nice job for us yesterday."

5. A look at WR depth

Alex Erickson, who was elevated from the practice squad for Sunday night's game, played 34 snaps against the Ravens.

His 17-yard reception late in the fourth quarter put the Bolts at midfield, but the offense couldn't take advantage and eventually turned the ball over on downs.

"He's been a glue guy for us. He's a guy that can play different places and make it right," Staley said. "He gives you some return value, too. Just a guy that has helped us with some of the receiver attrition we've had.

"With Derius [Davis] having such an important role as our punt returner, he's able to handle that fourth receiver duty and allow us to formate and keep people on the move," Staley added. "He's been steady for us."

Staley also added that the Chargers plan to stick with Davis at both returner spots. He also did not have an update in Joshua Palmer, who has missed the past four games while on Injured Reserve with a knee injury.

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