By Dave Thomas
Through four weeks of the NFL season, the Los Angeles Chargers sit as one of a handful of teams without a win. That small list of teams will likely get at least one shorter (unless there is a tie) when the Bolts travel to the Meadowlands in New Jersey to meet the 0-4 New York Giants.
Coming into the season, NFL prognosticators likely did not envision Eli Manning and the Giants sitting at 0-4 through one month of the season.
It looked like the Giants were about to secure their first win of the season last Sunday in Tampa, only to come up on the short end of a 25-23 loss when the Bucs had a game-winning field goal.
Meantime, Los Angeles also had its chances to get off the snide, but Philadelphia was able to secure a few key first downs late in the fourth quarter, giving it a 26-24 victory on the road against the Bolts.
So, where do two struggling teams go from here?
Chargers Go Back To Some Familiarity In Kicking Game
After two brutal last-second losses to open the season (Denver, Miami), the Chargers hung around with rookie placekicker Younghoe Koo for two additional weeks. But Koo’s time with the Bolts came to an end earlier in the week when he was cut.
In Koo’s place, a familiar face in Nick Novak returns on the scene.
Novak, who played for the Chargers from 2011-14, most recently kicked for the Houston Texans (two seasons). He has also played for Kansas City, Washington and Arizona.
With Novak back to handling the placekicking duties, there is hope that both fellow players and management will have some faith in the team’s kicking game. That is especially true if a game comes down to the final seconds as happened with both the Broncos and Dolphins last month.
Injury List Grows As Season Moves Along
It should not come as a surprise that as the season moves along, so too does the injury count for the Chargers—and most other teams, for that matter.
That said, Los Angeles heads into Sunday’s meeting with New York sporting only two players listed as out.
One of those players is running back Branden Oliver, currently dealing with a hamstring injury. Oliver was a no-go during the team’s last practice before heading off to the East Coast.
Starting running back Melvin Gordon did have a number of full practices this week, something Charger fans will undoubtedly be happy to hear. Gordon has been nursing a bad knee for much of the season, thereby limiting his effectiveness to date.
Where Did The Running Game Go?
For anyone following the Chargers on a regular basis, it is no major secret that the rushing attack has been anything but strong through four games. With only 270 yards rushing to date, the Bolts haven’t been chewing up yardage on the ground. In turn, it puts more pressure on quarterback Philip Rivers to deliver.
Although Oliver has only accumulated 58 yards on 17 carries to date, he can be an elusive back given his diminutive size.
Lastly, the Chargers may be looking at Sunday’s road game as having come at the perfect time on their schedule. Following three home losses—defeats where the visiting team had as many if not more fans in attendance at the StubHub Center—getting out of town may be the prescription for victory for this winless team.
Los Angeles reported the following injury update as of Friday:
- (RB) Melvin Gordon (Knee) – Full Practice
- (OT) Russell Okung (Groin) – Full Practice
- (C/G) Matt Slauson (Tricep) – Full Practice
- (RB) Branden Oliver (Hamstring) – Did Not Practice
- (WR) Mike Williams (Back) – Limited Practice
- (OT) Joe Barksdale (Foot) – Full Practice
- (OLB) Jatavis Brown (Ankle) – Limited Practice
- (TE) Sean McGrath (Foot) – Full Practice
- (WR) Tyrell Williams (Neck) – Full Practice