COSTA MESA – The Chargers have experienced injuries this season in which they've been tasked with repeatedly turning to the next player up on the totem pole, or in essence, shifting to the 'next man up mentality' that has so famously been used throughout the NFL for years in slew of injuries.
It's clear the Chargers have been the most injured team in NFL this year. In fact, they might be the most injured team through the first 10 weeks of a season in over a decade-plus.
Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill has a deep Rolodex of football knowledge, storing 19 years of experience as an NFL player and coach at the college or pro level. When questioned if this is the most injured team he's ever been a part of, there was one team who came to his mind.
“The closest thing was maybe 2007, when I was with the Dolphins," Hill said. "I actually ended up getting hurt Week 7, but going into the seventh week, I played with a different safety every game.
"I have experienced it, but that is something that I can probably help these guys with moving forward. It’s just the communication that you do have when you have a new person in there. It has to be over and above just because guys are not going to know every snap what their responsibility is."
Last Sunday, the Chargers finished the game with just three healthy defensive tackles after Christian Covington and Otito Ogbonnia went down with injuries and didn’t return.
The following day, it was deemed that both players would miss the remainder of the season due to a pec injury for Covington and a patella tendon rupture for Ogbonnia.
These season-ending blows come just a week after Austin Johnson suffered a knee injury that knocked him out for the entirety of the season. The team also moved on from Jerry Tillery last week, another defensive tackle, after he and the team began growing apart over philosophical differences that involved playing time, and resulted in friction with others players on the roster.
In slew of the injuries, down four interior defensive lineman in a matter of two weeks, the Chargers were forced to find replacements. Chargers coach Brandon Staley said at the start of this week they would "mine the entire NFL" in their pursuit for newcomers.
On Wednesday, the team announced they've signed defensive tackle Tyeler Davison to the active roster from the Browns practice squad. The Chargers also signed defensive tackle David Moa to the practice squad.
"We’re familiar with him on our staff," Staley said of Davison. "[Outside Linebackers Coach] Giff Smith, [Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach] Jay Rodgers, myself are kind of familiar with his game, being at other places. I have a lot of respect for his game from afar. He’s an experienced player. He played on some good teams. ... He’s going to be in the mix for us, so looking forward to seeing him out there.”
Davison enters the fold as a player with 86 games started across the previous seven seasons with the Saints and Falcons. But getting him up to speed in less than a week as the Chargers prepare for the Chiefs for the second of two meetings this season, will be easier said than done.
"You've got to study, you got to get with the coaches, you got to ask the dudes around you in how they perceive everything and the process they go through, play-to-play to get lined up and everything," Davison said on how he's approaching this week to learn the defense. "That's pretty much it. Just getting acclimated and take it one step at a time."
Hill said this week he's relied on the team's defensive lineman who've been here all season to assist the new additions as they learn the defense. He emphasized the importance of communicating on the field and in the class room.
"You try to help where you can. Try to simplify things," defensive lineman Morgan Fox said in helping bring his new teammates along this week. "We are part of a defense that has a lot of bells and whistles. You got to know your job, you got to be real discipline. So just being able to be a good teammate and help these guys out when you can and help simplify, just get a word in here and there to help them know what the job is."
The Chargers seek revenge this week, hosting the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football after their first matchup went south after they largely outplayed Kansas City for the bulk of the game in Week 2.
Davison, who's only been in the building for three days, says he's sensed the drive of the team throughout the week's preparation in trying to knock off the Chiefs this week.
"You can tell it's a big week, getting ready for the Chiefs," he said. "I know there's a rivalry in this division between the Chargers and Chiefs. It's a big game for us going forward, making that run for the playoffs. You could definitely tell the urgency and that there's a lot of history there."
It's been over two months since the Chargers last played the Chiefs. And since then, there's been a bit of a shift to the Kansas City offense. Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco has emerged as the leading rusher and wide receiver Kadarius Toney has joined the team as a speedy weapon out wide.
"[Pacheo] runs hard, he gets downhill, puts his shoulders down and gets moving," Fox said. "He's definitely a great runner. Toney coming in, he's definitely made some plays. He has an aspect of speed to their offensive that they already have, but he definitely has shiftiness. He's another great weapon to add to their offense."
The Chiefs placed wide receiver Mecole Hardman on injured reserve Thursday with an abdomen issue. A few of their other wide receivers, including JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, have yet to fully practice this week. That likely will call for a heavy dose of Toney getting in on the action.
Similar to last week when the Chargers game planned for Christian McCaffrey in San Francisco with just limited time on film for how he looks in that specific offense, the Chargers will have some level of projecting Toney's role with the Chiefs as he's played just 37 snaps since Kansas City acquired him ahead of the NFL trade deadline.
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Read more from Charger Report:
- Chargers vs. Chiefs Week 11 Injury Report: Thursday
- Where is OLB Joey Bosa at in His Return From Groin Surgery?
- Chargers Wide Receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams Making Progress From Injuries: Where do They Stand in Their Return?
- Chargers Place DL Otito Ogbonnia and DL Christian Covington on Injured Reserve, Sign Two Players
- Chargers HC Brandon Staley Says Defensive Gameplan Against 49ers Was Among the Best He's Called
Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.