Depth at edge rusher an issue for Chargers

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
7:15
PM ET
SAN DIEGO -- Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson was one of five players listed on the San Diego Chargers' injury report who did not practice on Thursday due to a hamstring injury suffered against Oakland last week.

But Johnson, an 11-year veteran, has an extra day to get back on the field with the game against Indianapolis taking place on Monday night. And he knows and understands the system, so practice reps aren't as important for him.

"He's a veteran player,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. "But everyone wants to practice. There's nothing like practicing, and seeing what you're going to see in a game. But with experienced players, there's a little more flexibility with someone who's played as long as he has, knowing the system inside and out.

"He's still one of the vocal guys out there during practice. He's still calling every play out, every formation, adjustments -- whatever it is.”

With Johnson out, the Chargers only have three healthy linebackers practicing in Larry English, Thomas Keiser and Tourek Williams.

But inside linebacker Bront Bird said he could play outside linebacker in a pinch. At 6-4 and 250 pounds, Bird has the length to rush the passer off of the edge. The third-year pro out of Texas Tech started the first two games of the regular season at inside linebacker with Manti Te'o nursing a foot injury, and has 19 tackles in five games.

"I played a little on the outside my rookie year,” Bird said. "If that's what they need me to do, I'm fully capable. I know the whole system. So I'll be ready if needed.”

Along with Johnson, right tackle D.J. Fluker (calf), running back Ryan Mathews (concussion), cornerback Johnny Patrick (chest) and left guard Chad Rinehart (toe) did not practice on Thursday.

According to McCoy, Fluker suffered the calf injury during the Oakland game but played through it. Fluker got some work in on the field with San Diego's training staff after practice on Thursday. McCoy said Fluker is day-to-day.

Cornerback Richard Marshall (groin) was a limited participant.

Left tackle King Dunlap (concussion), guard Rich Ohrnberger (groin), Te'o (foot) and cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring) were full participants.

McCoy said it's good to have Dunlap, the team's starting left tackle at the beginning of the season, back on the field. Dunlap missed two games due to lingering concussion symptoms.

"It's good to have King back in there,” McCoy said. "He was the starter on opening day. With his experience, what he's brought to our football team this year and the success we've had with him in the game, it's nice to have him back.”

The Chargers did lose some depth on the offensive line with offensive tackle Mike Harris being placed on the injured reserve with a season-ending ankle injury. Harris had started two games at left tackle in place of Dunlap, a game at right tackle before that in place of Fluker, playing solid at both positions.

Harris would have served as the team's swing tackle for the rest of the season had he stayed healthy.

"I hate that we lost Mike Harris for the year,” Philip Rivers said. "Obviously he started a lot of games for us last year, and he stepped up hugely these last three weeks. ... So when you have a guy like that who has some experience, and now he's going to be your swing tackle, you hate to lose him. I appreciated his effort."

Eric D. Williams

ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter

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