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Chargers vs. Jaguars Preview: 3 things to watch for in Week 3

The Bolts face another tough run defense as they struggle to find success on the ground.

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

After a nice break from last Thursday’s game, the Chargers are set to host the Jaguars in week three on Sunday afternoon. As of Thursday morning, the Chargers are still seven-point favorites over Jacksonville with the over/under set at 47, per DraftKings Sportsbook.

The Jags are led by second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence who didn’t need to do all that much this past Sunday when his team shut out the Colts 24-0. He has just three touchdowns on the year with one interception and has formed quite a nice relationship with the team’s big free-agent signing in wide receiver Christian Kirk.

While their defensive numbers are obviously skewed following a shutout, the Chargers cannot take this team lightly. The Jaguars defense is allowing 69.5 yards on the ground per game, good for third in the league. That doesn’t bode well for a Chargers ground game that’s still waiting to be ignited in 2022.

At the end of the day, this looks to be a great matchup between two quarterbacks with incredible arms and luscious locks. What’s not to love?

Let’s go ahead and dive into it. Below are three things I’ll be watching closely when the Chargers take the field on Sunday against the Jaguars.

1.) How short-handed could the Chargers be on game day?

Wednesday’s injury report saw a number of notable Chargers earn injury statuses.

First, both Keenan Allen, Justin Herbert, Trey Pipkins, and Donald Parham were all listed as limited participants. Corey Linsley — who left last Thursday’s game due to a knee injury — was one of two players who did not practice, the other being J.C. Jackson. Both those players being “DNPs” from the first practice of the week isn’t a good sign, especially seeing as Jackson just return last week after missing the Raiders game.

One thing that does worry me quite a bit is Allen’s slow recovery from his non-contact hamstring injury. Sunday will be two weeks from the injury and I would have never expected him to still be questionable going into this week with as much rest as he’s been able to get. If Allen is out another game, I will have some concerns about this offense if the Jaguars are able to key on the pass with such a non-existent run game to complement it.

Not to mention the potential for two starting offensive lineman to be out and the aforementioned Jackson. While this is truly the start of the “soft portion” of their schedule, that doesn’t necessarily mean they can waltz into SoFi Stadium with close to half a dozen starters out and be confident a victory awaits them.

2.) Will Donald Parham play a sizable role in his season debut?

Wednesday was a big day for Parham. It was the first time he’d practiced through the first two week’s of the regular season and it seems likely that he’ll be able to suit up this weekend against the Jaguars.

For those who forgot, Parham made an impact the last time these two teams met by scoring a 22-yard touchdown on just his second-career catch. The Chargers needed every touchdown they could get in that game as they outlasted a scrappy Jacksonville team 39-29.

Through his first two seasons, the 6’8 Parham has worked his tail off to be able to affect the ground game for the Bolts. He’s taken huge strides (pun intended) to become a better run blocker and you can tell the offense is missing him thus far as both a blocker and a potential playmaker.

3.) How will the Chargers attempt to kickstart their ground game?

Through two games, the Chargers are averaging 75.5 rushing yards per game. No one is taking those numbers harder than Austin Ekeler who is struggling out of the gate with dismal averages of 37.5 yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry. Add in the fact that no one on the team has scored a rushing touchdown through two weeks and you’ve got yourself a very murky part of the offense that seemingly can’t continue for much longer.

Both the Raiders and Chiefs came to play and did what they needed to do to stop the run. I’m not taking anything away from their performances, but an improved offensive line from a year ago (when healthy) should be producing a lot more than what they have thus far.

The other running backs in Joshua Kelley and Sony Michel are averaging 5.4 and 2.3 yards per carry, respectively. That average by Kelley looks phenomenal, but it’s stemming from a small sample size of just eight carries. Due to that, I’m not so sure “give him more touches” is a real way to fix the issue.

Does that mean the team should give rookie Isaiah Spiller a look? He was inactive against the Chiefs but I don’t see what they have to lose by giving him the same amount of touches as a Kelley or Michel for just one week. I think the pros outweigh the cons here.

If Linsley doesn’t play against the Jaguars, then all of this may sound like a waste of words if the front five isn’t healthy, but Will Clapp played a pretty good game during Thursday’s second half.

But as Ekeler said in his latest episode of “Ekeler’s Edge,” he’s very aware of his average yards per rush and it’s all on him to make sure that number goes up going forward. He believes his offensive line has been blocking well and it’s now down to him to make one more person miss and find his way into the end zone.

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