Chargers Blighted by Injuries Heading to MIN

Dec 5, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Sunday is a big day in the season for the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Chargers. The two 0-2 teams are desperate for a win to kickstart their season.

The journey back from 0-3 is long, if not inconquerable. Injuries are piling up across the league with us only in Week 3 of the season, and while the Vikings have had issues, the Chargers are blighted by injuries as they head to Minnesota.

Chargers Blighted by Injuries Heading to MIN

When the final injury reports hit on Friday, the news wasn’t so bad for the Vikings. Only Marcus Davenport has been ruled out of the game, with starting center Garrett Bradbury designated as questionable. Everyone else who has been on the injury report this week — apart from Jalen Nailor, who has been placed on Injured Reserve — logged a full practice on Friday, including the timely return of Christian Darrisaw to boost the Vikings offensive line.

Chargers Blighted
Jan 1, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) carries the ball in the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The news wasn’t so good for the Chargers, who have ruled out two players and have a further four designated as questionable. It’s not just the greater number that is troubling the Chargers. There are some very important players on the injury report. Austin Ekeler and Eric Kendricks are the two that have been ruled, denying Kendricks the chance to play at his former home. Joey Bosa, Daiyan Henley, Chris Rumph, and Christopher Hinton are the four questionable players. 

The Chargers Wounded Key Men

Everyone inside the Vikings orbit can give a collective sigh of relief that Ekeler will not be playing. After the run defense woes from the Eagles game, a matchup against one of the best backs in the league wasn’t what the Vikings needed. Ekeler did not play in Week 2 due to an ankle injury and is missing again.

This comes after rushing for 117 yards and a touchdown in the season opener. He also had four catches for 47 yards. Joshua Kelley will be the lead back, and after rushing for 91 yards off 16 carries as Ekeler’s backup in Week 1, he managed just 39 yards off 13 carries as the lead back against a tough Titans defense in Week 2.

There will be no revenge game for Kendricks, a popular figure during his eight seasons in Minnesota. Other than a player hungry to prove his former employees wrong for letting him go, the Chargers are with the player who started the season with the green dot (defensive play caller) for a second game. Kenneth Murray took over the duty for the Titans game and should do so again this week.

Jul 12, 2023; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Eric Kendricks arrives on the red carpet before the 2023 ESPYS at the Dolby Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Joey Bosa, a vital piece of the Chargers defense, is dealing with a hamstring issue. It is an injury problem that has rolled over from last week, where Bosa did suit up against the Titans. He wasn’t 100%, though, signified by only playing on 19 (29%) of defensive snaps. He was saved for important moments in the game, and such is Bosa’s talent, he had two sacks and two tackles for loss. After not participating in Thursday’s practice and being limited on Friday, it raises questions about his availability for Sunday’s game. The Chargers will likely monitor his progress closely in the coming days. A similar usage to last week wouldn’t be a surprise.

What It Means For Sunday

Ekeler’s absence is a big one. The Chargers rushed the ball 40 times in their opening game against the Dolphins. Without Ekeler, the following week, they rushed the ball just 21 times. That number seems more likely this week as the Chargers play to their strength of quarterback Justin Herbert airing the ball out to wide receiver duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The Vikings pass defense has been good this season. All the run defense needs to do is not let the Chargers second-string rushing attack take over the game. If they do, the Vikings don’t deserve to win.

The Vikings Game on Sunday Will Probably Be Wild
Nov 20, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley (center) talks with quarterback Justin Herbert (10) and quarterback Chase Daniel (4) in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

As always, a central talking point for the Vikings has been the offensive line’s ability to protect Kirk Cousins. Dalton Risner was signed this week to add competition at guard, and with a return to fitness for Darrisaw, the Vikings will hope to keep Cousins off the floor as much as he has been in the opening two games. A fully fit Darrisaw and a hampered Bosa give the advantage to the Vikings, but with Risner unlikely to be fully up speed, how the iOL holds up will be critical.

The Chargers are blighted by injuries as they head to Minnesota. The Vikings must take advantage.