NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers
Aug 13, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; A helmet from a San Diego Chargers player in a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 17-7. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers must stay healthy on Sunday vs. Saints

The Los Angeles Chargers can’t afford another injury.

The losses are already piling up, headlined by the absence of All-Pro safety Derwin James. James suffered a stress fracture in his foot this past week during joint practices with the New Orleans Saints, requiring surgery. James is expected to miss at least three months, and could be sidelined until mid-December.

Meanwhile, receiver Keenan Allen is dealing with an ankle injury that will cost him the rest of the preseason. There’s optimism he’ll return for Los Angeles’ Week 1 date against the Indianapolis Colts.

Finally, left tackle Russell Okung remains on the Non-Football Injury List as he recovers from a pulmonary embolism. Add in running back Melvin Gordon’s holdout, and the injury-plagued offseason of rookies Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderley, and head coach Anthony Lynn has to make sure his team gets through Sunday’s tilt with New Orleans with good health.

Of course, Lynn can’t guarantee such things, but it would be wise to limit the snaps for any starter or serious contributor. The Chargers should cut back the amount of reps given to such players, allowing for more rest and a chance for the coaching staff to evaluate backups and players on the roster bubble.

With Los Angeles attempting to win its first Super Bowl this year, things are already proving to be an uphill challenge. The Chargers are trying to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, a team which has won the last three division crowns. Furthermore, the Chiefs are returning a record-setting offense led by Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. The defense stands to be much-improved over the 31st-ranked unit we saw last year with the trades for Frank Clark, Darron Lee and Emmanuel Ogbah, and the signings of Tyrann Mathieu, Bashaud Breeland and Alex Okafor.

Make no mistake, Los Angeles can still make a serious run. Even without James for most of the year, the Chargers still have a solid defense led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The offense should see the return of Allen for serious football, and perhaps Gordon depending on his commitment level to a new deal. The biggest concerns currently on replacing James to some level, and figuring out the offensive line should Okung be out an extended period.

All of this starts with Sunday’s game against the Saints. The Chargers can’t afford another injury to a high-profile player, even if it means cutting reps.

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