Chargers regain health as they prepare for Patriots


He was busy at the time with his own challenge, coordinating a Rams defense against the elusive and explosive Kyler Murray.

Brandon Staley was not there in December to witness the most unbalanced loss in Chargers history.

So this week, the rookie head coach said he wouldn’t specifically address the team’s 45-0 loss to New England, with the Patriots set to revisit SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

“If our players can build on internal motivation – guys who were at the game – that’s their thing,” Staley said.

Staley and the Rams defeated Murray and the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 6 afternoon 38-28. The chargers? They fell behind New England 28-0 at halftime and have spent the last two quarters trying to limit the embarrassment.

Wide receiver Mike Williams suggested Monday that he and his teammates wouldn’t invest a lot of time mulling over what’s wrong.

“Everything in the game was bad,” he said. “We don’t want to talk about it.

Much has changed for both teams since then, a reality underscored by this fact: Barely 10 months after losing to them by 45, the Chargers opened as 5-1 / 2 point favorites over the Patriots.

New England are 3-4 but have just beaten 54-13 against the New York Jets to a win. The Chargers were out last week after a stunning 34-6 loss to Baltimore.

The Patriots have a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones and the most accomplished NFL head coach of all time in Bill Belichick. The Chargers have second-year starter Justin Herbert and every reason to believe things will get better this time around.

“A new year, a new team on both sides of the ball,” said Williams. “So I feel like it’s going to be different.”

The Chargers also seem to be recovering a bit of health. Defensive tackle Justin Jones (calf), safety Nasir Adderley (hip) and linebacker Drue Tranquill (chest muscle) returned to the training ground.

Staley said the three had a “positive trend” with the coach hoping everyone can play New England.

Linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (ankle) trained individually on Monday, but signs indicate his return will take longer.

“He’s a bit further than those three,” Staley said. “We’re going to watch his ankle and err on the side of time. But he’s making good progress, in a much different place than he was before the bye, that’s for sure.

Williams said the free time also helped him cope with a knee injury that limited him in the loss to the Ravens. He said he felt swelling and pain.

Chargers outside linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (56) tackle New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton at SoFi Stadium on December 6, 2020.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A same knee injury persisted for Williams throughout the 2019 season, although he still appeared in 15 games and finished with career highs in receptions (49) and yards (1,001).

“I’m fine,” Williams said. “I don’t really feel it anymore. So I am solid.

When the Chargers take on the Patriots, they’ll have a new returning man, who they hope can provide a spark that was missing.

Andre Roberts signed last week after being cut off by Houston. The veteran wide receiver is in his 12th season and is part of his eighth team.

Staley said Roberts will return the punters and kickoffs.

“He’s exactly what we need,” Staley said. “We need someone with experience who has had a high level of production in this position. I think he’s going to be a real asset.

Roberts, 33, has been in the Pro Bowl three times, most recently last season when he was with Buffalo. He was named All-Pro in 2018 while with the Jets.

He returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns during his career.

The Chargers lacked explosiveness in the second leg and lost an important special team field position to Baltimore.

KJ Hill Jr. returned punters. Adderley, Larry Rountree III and Jalen Guyton were among the team’s kickoff returns.

Hill, who was lifted to make room for Roberts, is now part of the Chargers’ practice squad.

One change the Chargers aren’t making – for now at least – is at kicker, where Tristan Vizcaino has struggled, missing five more points in the last four games. Staley continued to express his confidence in the rookie, but said the team were far from happy.

“We are going to make sure we keep all of our options open at this position,” he said. “But we still have a lot of confidence in Tristan. I still believe in my heart that this guy has real talent.

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