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NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
You know that feeling after taking a few days and returning to work? Sometimes it's tough to fire back up the engines.
The Chargers are fighting through that.
Not that they are losing the battle, but it's clear that they need to rev it up again. Need to pick up where they were in winning two straight games before heading into their bye and climbing above .500 at 4-3.
The Washington Redskins await to give the Chargers a rude awakening to their back-to-work week. That should get the Chargers' attention, and if that didn't, quarterback Philip Rivers is making sure his teammates find their game face quickly.
"I do think there is a realness to getting your mind back, focused, zero in, and not forget how hard it was to win two games in a row," Rivers said. "To not forget what it's going to take to go to Washington and win.
"When you have a bye, you come in and you haven't played in a while, and everything feels good. But it's realizing how hard this challenge is going to be, and let's make sure we prepare the right way and get ready to go play. So I do think that that is a challenge and one that we've got to make sure we have the right approach."
The Chargers need this one Sunday, because there is some demanding stretches of weeks ahead. Five of their final nine games are in games in the AFC West, a division that has the best record in the NFL.
And in the next four games, they play at Washington, Denver at home, then at Miami and at Kansas City.
That's why the Chargers have to be keen to getting right, quickly.
"I do think you have to be aware of it and not let yourself relax in even the slightest bit, because that's human nature when you haven't practiced in a few days, you hadn't played in a little bit, hadn't lost in a long time due to the week off, so you feel good," Rivers said. "But I just think we have to make sure that that's done from a mind-set standpoint."
SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Redskins lead series, 6-3. After Washington won the first six games, the Chargers prevailed in the last three. The Chargers won the last time they played, 23-20, in San Diego. One of the most exciting games of this series was when the Chargers won in Washington in 2005, as LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for three touchdowns and 184 yards, with his 41-yard scoring run giving the Chargers the win in overtime.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
-- OLB Jarret Johnson will return to the lineup on Sunday after missing two games with a bum hamstring. From the sidelines, he liked what he saw."I just liked the energy that we were playing with," Johnson said. "We seem to be playing better on third down. Anytime you are playing better on third down, it's easier to build momentum and to get excited. When you have long drives that are ending in field goals and a few touchdowns here and there and you are not playing well on third down, you feel like you are getting bogged down. When you start getting off the field more you get excited. When you get the stop on third down or a big sack you feel a lot more excited and there is more energy. That's how I felt the last two weeks I was out. I'm anxious to get back out there and join them."
-- Washington S Brandon Meriweather is back after serving a one-game suspension for helmet-to-helmet hits. TE Antonio Gates doesn't mind physical play, he just wants to be aware of it. "If I have the ball and see you coming and I know what's coming, that's football," Gates said. "But if I'm in the air and I'm not looking and you ear-hole me that's (different). That is the whole concept of being a defenseless player and getting hit that way."
-- Coach Mike McCoy is among those impressed with Robert Griffin III and how tough he is to defend. "You have to be very disciplined in what you are doing- following rush lanes or pressures," he said. "You have to make sure when you have an opportunity to get him, you have to breakdown and tackle him. He's a very athletic quarterback who makes plays with his speed. The great thing he does also is once he gets out of the pocket he makes the big throws downfield. It's a challenge for you as a defensive player to be disciplined and understand that you have to stick to your responsibilities. If you freelance at all, he'll make you pay for it."
-- Count ex-Chargers WR Lance Alworth as being a fan of what McCoy's staff is doing.
"I think the coaches are doing a fabulous job of what they are accomplishing; I love what they are doing," said Alworth, the first AFL player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "They are throwing the football and that is what you have to do with the quarterback we have. He is a wonderful quarterback, but he has always been on his back because you didn't have any help up front and if you don't get rid of the ball quickly...Our offense last year wouldn't let us do that. He was always getting rushed up the middle and forget it if you go back five, six yards to throw it. You can't get rid of it. You get pushed to the outside and he couldn't do much.
"Now, boom! He is accurate, he is quick and has been given the ability to make some changes (at the line of scrimmage) and it is a big, big difference. And the great thing is they got him some neat little receivers."
-- Former NFL player Kurt Warner was a visitor at Wednesday's practice. Warner was Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's quarterback when the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl; Whisenhunt was the head coach.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- Number of Philip Rivers kids, which beats by two the number of interceptions he has. Rivers' seventh child was born on Monday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a lot to take in."-- OLB Jarret Johnson on the number of challenges Washington QB Robert Griffin III presents to the Chargers' defense.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Chargers could be forced to carry an extra lineman with LT King Dunlap returning after exiting the last game with a concussion. It was Dunlap's second concussion of the season and third in less than two years. When Dunlap, then Mike Remmers went down in their last game against the Jaguars, the team was forced to flop right tackle D.J. Fluker to left tackle, as well as make other moves.
If Remmers can't go -- he didn't practice on Wednesday -- Nick Becton could be active.
--ILB Andrew Gachkar is running with the first team with Donald Butler being out. With the increased playing time of late, Gachkar has 12 tackles in the past two games.
--OLB Jarret Johnson is back practicing and the Chargers are looking for him to keep the pressure on quarterbacks. Johnson missed two games and still leads the team with three sacks.
--RB Ryan Mathews is trying to rush for 100 yards for the third straight game. If he does it, it will match a career high for consecutive 100-yard games that he set in 2011.
--RB Danny Woodhead is second on the team with 40 catches, which are the second-highest total for any NFL back. Woodhead has four touchdowns in his last four games.
--WR Keenan Allen's 289 receiving yards in the last three games is second-most in the NFL among rookie receivers.
--ILB Donald Butler (groin) didn't practice, and this is after missing two games and having a bye week off. It would be a stretch to count on him for Sunday, and if he does go, he'll likely be compromised.
--WR Eddie Royal (toe) remains in a walking boot and didn't practice.
--LT Mike Remmers (ankle) didn't practice; the Chargers are thin at tackle and were hoping Remmers could bounce back quickly.
--LG Chad Rinehart (toe) was limited as the Chargers ease him back into practice.
GAME PLAN: The Chargers have found a new toy, so why not use it? Much of the news about the team has been about the resurgence of Philip Rivers and it is well deserved. But the running game has also show a pulse, especially lately. It went for a season-high 158 yards in the last game at Jacksonville.
The Redskins' defense has some limitations, but it does also feature some ball hawks. It has scored five touchdowns this year off turnovers, and putting the ball in the any more than one has to doesn't make sense. Run the ball and turn to the pass, instead of the other way around.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chargers run defense, which could be at less than full strength vs. Redskins running game, which features Alfred Morris and Roy Helu, Jr. -- The Chargers might be without Donald Butler, their best run-stuffer among their linebackers. Manti Te'o, the other starter inside, is still finding his game after missing three games with a foot injury. The Redskins, mostly because of their two backs but also getting contributions from Robert Griffin III, lead the league in averaging five rushing yards per carry. The Chargers are ranked No. 30 in average yards per carry at 4 yards. The Chargers are going to be challenged winning this matchup, as they have struggled against mobile quarterbacks -- see the Titans' Jake Locker and the Raiders' Terrelle Pryor.
--Chargers pass protection, which has allowed but 11 sacks vs. Redskins pass rush, which shows 18 sacks -- The improvement of the Chargers pass protection has been amazing -- it got punched for an AFC-high 49 sacks last year. But the new offense has the ball getting out of Philip Rivers' hand quickly and the result has been it neutralizes most pass rushers. But in Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, the Redskins offer two solid rushers coming off each edge. Combine that with the Fed Ex Field noise and this could be a big test for rookie RT D.J. Fluker and LT King Dunlap, who must be watch closely after leaving the Chargers' last game with a concussion.