- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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San Diego’s best pass-rusher, outside linebacker Jarrett Johnson, is expected to play Sunday after missing the past two weeks with a groin injury. That just means an effective pass rush should be even better. The Chargers have recorded 14 sacks in their past four games.
And during Johnson’s absence, they held teams to a 23.8 third-down conversion rate. Now they get back a healthy linebacker.
“I feel great,” Johnson told reporters. “Obviously, missing the last two games was tough. But the bye week for me fell at a perfect time, considering the injuries I had, and the amount of time I needed to heal. It was perfect.”
According to ESPN.com Chargers reporter Eric Williams, Johnson said he liked what he saw from the Chargers’ defense during his absence.
“I just like the energy that we are playing with,” Johnson said. “We seem to be playing better on third down. And any time you’re playing better on third down, it’s easier to build momentum and get excited.
... A rejuvenated Philip Rivers? The stats certainly suggest he’s enjoying the Chargers’ coaching change.
... San Diego does not have an elite pass-rusher, yet the Chargers continue to apply pressure. Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bedard takes a look at why their rush has been so effective. He focused on outside linebacker Thomas Keiser and end Corey Liuget. Keiser played an excellent game against Jacksonville.
Their improved rush has occurred despite having key players such as Dwight Freeney, Melvin Ingram and Johnson on the sidelines. Clearly they have depth.
“A lot of us who are making plays on the defense right now, were not starters to begin the season, we’re more role players, but now we’ve had to step up in more significant roles and have been trying to let the defense not skip a beat,” Keiser told Bedard. “There’s no consolation like, ‘Oh, he’s just a backup, it’s OK if he doesn’t do as well.’ There are full expectations that you make all the plays that the starter would make.”
Liuget told Bedard that this attitude stems from Johnson.
“Once Dwight went down, Jarrett stepped up and was like, ‘Hey, we don’t have a guy in this room that has 100 sacks or a Hall of Fame résumé, but I’ll be damned if we’re not going to be one of the most dominant front sevens in the NFL,’” Liuget said. “We told him we had his back because he’s a guy that works hard every day and makes everyone else better around him. That’s why our depth players are doing such an excellent job.”
... Williams takes a midseason look at the Chargers, breaking down how each unit has performed.
... It’s a new, perhaps more modern, version of Martyball that’s taking place in San Diego. The difference now is that the Chargers don’t control the ball via the run, it’s through the air. Their numbers are rather strong.