Head Coach Anthony Lynn revealed Monday it will be unlikely to see Denzel Perryman on the field Sunday in New York with the hamstring injury he suffered Saturday night.
The linebacker was one of a litany of key injuries the Bolts suffered in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and it's a loss that could have a profound impact on the defense. The Chargers' fortunes against the run drastically improved when Perryman returned in Week 10 after missing the first half of the season with an ankle injury.
However, the team can't afford to skip a beat without the hard-hitting hammer in the middle against a New York Jets team who loves to pound the football.
In fact, with the Jets' commitment to the run and the Bolts' struggles a week ago bringing down the ball carrier, Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley made it clear he expects the Jets to pound the rock early and often.
"We have a great challenge ahead of us," he explained. "To go back to last game, the disappointing factor was we just didn't tackle very well. I thought we were making really good progress in our tackling; the open-field tackling, the close-quarter tackling, but you can't hide from the fact that it didn't go our way in that aspect (last week). And we have to recover quickly, because (the Jets) want to run the ball. They had over 200 yards rushing vs. Jacksonville, high 100s vs. KC, and it's not just 10-12 carries, they'll run the ball 40 times. So we have to do a much better job as far as that this week. We have to quickly improve in that area."
That challenge becomes more difficult without number 52 in the middle.
So, how do the Bolts plan to replace Perryman?
The answer is with a variety of players.
Linebackers Hayes Pullard and Korey Toomer saw extensive action earlier in the year when Perryman was sidelined, so both will have a role come Sunday. That experience should hopefully prove valuable come kickoff.
"Fortunately, we've been here before," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "We didn't have Denzel for the first eight weeks of the season, so we'll go back to our normal rotation with Toomer and Hayes in base."
Bradley believes that will be important against a Jets team whose scheme often requires defenses to be in base rather than sub packages.
"I thought especially Hayes, in the run game, did a very nice job," he said. "In the passing game, there were some unknowns. But after he played, especially in Jacksonville, we saw him do some of the things we hoped he'd do. It was just a situation where we were struggling against the run, we started playing much better, and we kept with that plan. So it didn't give him as many opportunities, and teams came out and really tried to spread us out (and) attack us more that way, which allowed for more nickel on the field. But this game is different (in New York). This team will put you in a lot of situations where you're playing a lot of base."
Then there is safety Adrian Phillips, who has proven to be an impactful box safety since being deployed in that role the last time the team visited MetLife Stadium in Week 5. While Jahleel Addae has rightfully garnered high marks for his play in the box, Phillips has also been effective in the role right alongside him.
"Well, it's really both him and Jahleel," Bradley explained. "Those guys are interchangeable guys. It gives us the flexibility (where) we were looking for a guy who can play in the box, who could understand the fits well enough for us to have the flexibility at other positions, and that's what Adrian does. He gives us that ability to play in the box, he can play off the edge, he can play back. When we get in certain personnel situations, with different groupings on the field, he just gives us some really good flexibility."
AP's high football IQ is what allows him to play multiple roles.
"He's really an instinctive football player as well, and that makes him a quick study, so if you put new things on his plate, he can quickly learn it and play it instinctively," the defensive coordinator continued. "We have to be careful. We've even talked this week about how much do we want to put on his plate as far as multiple positions we're going to ask him to play? You get that comfort and trust level where you just kind of pile it on him, and he seems to handle it pretty well."