The Chargers returned to work following their Week 8 bye.
With 10 games remaining, the Chargers will get their fair share of challenges, starting with the first-place Atlanta Falcons in Week 9.
Here's a breakdown of news from the Chargers ninth week of the season:
Monday: Biggest questions following the bye
The Chargers returned to the practice field at Hoag Performance Center on Monday.
Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith dove into some of the major questions surrounding the team following the bye week.
Among the top questions was wide receiver Keenan Allen's status, as he was not spotted during the open portion of practice on Monday.
Allen made his return to the field in the final game before the bye week against the Seahawks. Playing 23 snaps in that Week 7 matchup, Allen did not see the field in the second half. His status will be a focal point throughout the week, as the Bolts will be missing wide receiver Mike Williams for a couple more weeks.
The Week 9 matchup will be crucial for the Bolts regardless of who plays. As Smith points out, a win or a loss can mean very different things for a Chargers team coming off of a bye week.
But with plenty of time to rest up physically — and clear their heads mentally — the Chargers now face a trek to Atlanta to face the first-place Falcons in Week 9. At 4-3, the Bolts can start off this second phase of the season on a strong note with a win, which would also help them keep pace in a crowded AFC playoff field. A loss, meanwhile, would drop them to an even .500 for the first time since Week 2.
To read the rest of Smith's questions, click here.
Tuesday: Bolts steady on power rankings
Fresh off the bye week, the Chargers did not undergo much change in the weekly power rankings.
Sitting at 4-3, this Sunday's game against the Falcons will be big in the direction the rest of the season will go according to Sports Illustrated's writer Conor Orr.
He wrote in his power rankings:
Coming off their bye, the Chargers have four road games in five weeks, including some really difficult tilts against some of the best teams on their schedule. This will undoubtedly be the crossroads that decides their season and, perhaps, the direction the franchise will go in.
To read where other NFL analysts have the Chargers in their power rankings, click here.
Wednesday: Reflecting on the bye week, injury updates
The Chargers were back in full swing as the preparation for the Falcons ramped up Wednesday.
In his first media availability since the Monday following Week 7, Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley spoke about his read of the team through seven games.
"A strong sense of how good we can be because I've seen it," Staley said. "I've seen us play. What we've experienced is a lot of the tougher side of things, through seven games. I've seen us at full strength.
"I've seen us have to absorb some tough stuff and be able to overcome it to go on a three-game winning streak. I think you know where you need to go," Staley added.
The bye week came near the midseason mark, which gave Staley an opportunity to accomplish a couple of things.
"Just a lot of assessment in all phases of the program," Staley said. "I think offense, defense, kicking game, the way you practice, the way you meet, the way you travel, preparing for the next game, getting a jump start on the next game.
"I feel like I was able to communicate to a lot of different groups," Staley added. "That's important when you get that sort of time to try and connect with your people; coach, player, staff."
Staley also had injury updates, as Allen missed Wednesday’s practice as well. Allen added Wednesday during his media session that while his hamstring felt great going into that game, it worsened during a rehab session over the bye week.
"Not at this point," Allen said about a possible timetable for a return. "Keep working through it and hope it starts getting better."
The Chargers did get some positive news however, as Staley updated the status of outside linebacker Joey Bosa, who is now rehabbing his groin injury back at Hoag Performance Center.
"Joey Bosa's recovery, he's back in the building and doing well," Staley said. "He looks healthy, fresh. Obviously, he's going to be week-to-week.
"We'll let you know when he's closer to returning to practice, but he's in good spirits, and the progress has been positive and we're excited about that," Staley added.
Tight end Donald Parham, Jr., and wide receiver Joshua Palmer were out of concussion protocol on Wednesday and practiced in full. Wide receiver Mike Williams, kicker Dustin Hopkins (right hamstring), outside linebacker Chris Rumph II (knee) and defensive lineman Jerry Tillery (back) did not practice on Wednesday.
Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith released his weekly mailbag on Wednesday, where he answered questions about the trade deadline, the Week 9 matchup with the Falcons and much more. In addition to the mailbag, Smith also wrote about the Chargers not making any moves at the trade deadline and what the team said went into it.
Thursday: 3rd-down emphasis over the bye week
Following the bye week, the Chargers offense and defense have made third downs an emphasis.
On offense, the the Bolts are tied for 13th overall with a third-down success rate of 40.57 percent. Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi pointed it out as an emphasis to the team, adding that finding the right mix will be crucial for figuring this problem out.
"I think we have had a little bit of shuffling guys in and out," Lombardi said. "Like I've said before, each group that you have based on the defense you're facing, it's just finding that right formula.
"Some of it is better planning, better play-calling, better execution. Everyone just picking it up a little bit in all three phases." Lombardi added.
And on the defensive side, the Chargers rank 17th overall with a third-down success rate of 40.96 percent. Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill talked the defense's performance on that end on Thursday.
"That reflection in the bye week is also looking at what gave us success in the past," Hill said. "I don't want to reveal what [Head Coach Brandon] Staley and I have done in the past that was successful, but it's more like looking back at some of that stuff, seeing if we have been doing those things in this situation.
"That's another way to get better, seeing what our calls are, seeing how we can help our players," Hill added.
The Falcons not only run the ball a lot, but efficiently as well. With the third-most carries and fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL, the Bolts defense will be tested against a Falcons backfield that has many different players that can cause damage.
"I think they are spreading the wealth around," Hill said. "You have four guys with at least 50-plus carries. Those guys are all guys who can get downhill. Probably not the most elusive guys, but they are on their track. They do have good vision.
"They are making sure that they are sticking to their foundation, and their foundation, right now, is running the ball. It has been effective for them," Hill added.
On Thursday's injury report, tight end Donald Parham, Jr. (hamstring), running back Austin Ekeler (abdomen), guard/tackle Brenden Jaimes (quadricep) and linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga (groin) were all added. Ekeler and Jaimes were listed as limited participants, but Parham and Ogbongbemiga did not practice.
Members of the Falcons also talked about the Chargers ahead of their Week 9 matchup. Check out what Atlanta said about the Bolts.
Check out the best photos of the Chargers Thursday practice at Hoag Performance Center
Friday: Final updates before Atlanta
The Chargers took the field for the last time on Friday before they head out to Atlanta on Saturday.
After not having practiced all week, Allen was officially listed as "OUT" for the Week 9 game against the Falcons.
With Williams already out as well, the Bolts will enter Atlanta without their two top targets.
"It's the NFL," Staley said about missing Allen and Williams. "We're ready for this football game. We've had a good week of practice. Our guys know that that's part of the game. You have to stick together through situations like this.
"That's why you have to fall back on the culture that you've created, the brotherhood that you've created. That's how you make your way through it," Staley added.
In addition to the existing wide receiver injuries, Deandre Carter, who has stepped up since Week 1 after Allen went out, was added to the injury report on Friday and listed as "QUESTIONABLE" with an illness.
Quarterback Justin Herbert's wide receiver room on Sunday will look different than it did coming into the year, but the third-year quarterback is confident in others stepping up when needed.
"It's definitely tough to lose guys like that," Herbert said. "We're very aware of how special they are, but we think really highly of the guys behind them. They have done a great job stepping up all through camp, all throughout the season. It will be a good challenge for us."
Entering this week at 4-3, the Chargers have been able to continue to stay above .500 despite the number of injuries that have occurred.
Still, Herbert said that regardless of all of that, the team still fighting — something he has enjoyed seeing.
"They are a bunch of competitors. It hasn't been easy. It's definitely a tough game," Herbert said. "That's kind of what we signed up for in the NFL. Everyone has shown up to work and is giving their best effort. I respect that so much about all of our teammates.
"No one is ever going to give up or quit. It's been awesome to see, so far," Herbert added.
In addition to Allen and Williams being out, kicker Dustin Hopkins (right hamstring), Parham (hamstring), outside linebacker Chris Rumph II (knee), and defensive lineman Jerry Tillery (back) were also listed as "OUT" on the final injury report of the week.
Ekeler, Palmer and Jaimes were all taken off the report. Carter and Ogbongbemiga were listed as "QUESTIONABLE".
Prior to practice on Friday, defensive lineman Morgan Fox was officially named the Chargers for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. Since growing up with his father in the US Army, Fox continues to try and give back to the community that helped raise him. To read the full feature, click here.
Also prior to Friday's practice, Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith talked with Tori McElhaney, who covers the Falcons for Falcons.com, to preview Sunday's game.
Smith also released his Final Thoughts ahead of the game against Atlanta, leading with cornerback Michael Davis, who will be stepping into a starting role on Sunday.
Chargers defensive lineman Morgan Fox hosted a group from the Wounded Warrior Project after Thursday's practice! During the visit Morgan was nominated as the the team's NFL Salute to Service Award candidate!
Odds and Ends
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