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Chargers Defense Faces Big Test Against Gordon and Williams Duo

The defensive line will be on the spotlight this weekend.

The Chargers defense went into last Sunday missing Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, and Christian Covington. Going into any game down three defensive linemen is challenging, especially when they decided to bring up Breiden Fehoko, Forrest Merrill, and Andrew Brown.

They had Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris coming into town, so it was going to be a tough game. Coaches and players alike stated that the defense would need to come together to slow down Harris.

“It felt pretty good having a lot of young guys step up,” Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said. “Obviously, [Defensive Line Coach] Giff [Smith] and [Run Game Coordinator/Outside Linebackers Coach] Jay [Rodgers] do a good job of continuing to work with those young guys. We know that this is the NFL and that things happen, but those guys were ready to roll.”

The backup defensive line did their job and held the Steelers to 55 total rushing yards. Coming into the game, the defense had given up over 155 yards per game. It was an impressive performance from the front line as a whole.

“I think they played extremely well,” Chargers defensive tackle Justin Jones said. “They exceeded expectations for a lot, not for me, but for a lot of different people. I mean, I see them every day. I see how they work, I see the preparation.”

According to Staley, Tillery and Covington will start on Sunday with Jones. He mentioned Fehoko and Joe Gaziano will be part of the rotation “right away.”

Fehoko had three tackles last Sunday, but the first one set the tone when he went face-to-face against Harris and was able to bring him down. The former LSU Tiger takes on double teams well and could help the defensive line slow down a pretty good duo.

“He is the commander for us inside,” Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said. “Our nose kind of orchestrates things up front, with our front mechanics. He’s running the show to the guys to the right and the left of him, subtle things within our front. We have that guy as kind of a general for us.”

Denver features former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams. They seem like the prototypical smash and dash combination.

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“I think they are both two fantastic backs,” Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “Obviously, I know Melvin very well and have played against him, but I think Williams leads the league in yards after contact. He’s a very good runner, so we’ll have our hands full with them.”

The Chargers know that Gordon is a bruiser that is tough to take down with only one player. They will need more hats to bring down the ball carrier when he has the ball in his hands. Gordon has 522 rushing yards along with five rushing touchdowns.

Williams is agile and can burn a defense quickly. He has the most rushing yards this season, with 514, to not have a single start, so he has been a great partner for Gordon.

“Obviously, they have a good duo back there,” Jones said. “Just trying to cage them in, keep them inside our tackles, try to make a play in-between the tackles, and know when to hit our edges. That’ll make the gameplay out in our favor, so that’s the plan.”

Both can catch out of the backfield combining for 297 receiving yards and three touchdowns, so the defense will need to keep their eyes open for them in the passing game.

The Chargers have made some current strides at slowing down opposing running backs, but this Sunday will be a true test for them.

“I think everybody has settled down into their role and understanding their piece in the defense — and how big their role actually is and taking ownership of that. It’s night-and-day, literally,” Jones said.

Nuts N’ Bolts

· Injury report. OUT: S Alohi Gilman (quad), CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion). Questionable: LG Matt Feiler (ankle), DB Trey Marshall (ankle/hip).