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COSTA MESA, Calif. — While disappointed, Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco is not in panic mode after losing one of the team’s best offensive players for the season.

Tight end Hunter Henry suffered a right ACL injury in practice last week, ending his 2018 campaign. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Henry’s 12 receiving touchdowns is tied with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs for the fourth-most over the last two seasons.

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Henry was expected to take another jump in production this season with future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates leaving the Chargers in free agency. Now, the Chargers have to figure out how to fill the huge void left by Henry’s absence.

“It’s going to be harder without him, but let me be clear: We’ll adapt and move on,” Telesco said. “Chargers fans should be very comfortable with the fact of Anthony Lynn as the head coach and Ken Whisenhunt as the offensive coordinator. They’re both very smart, very adaptable coaches. And we’ll find a way. It may be a different way than we mapped out initially, but we’ll find a way.”

Expect Lynn and Whisenhunt to devise a multi-pronged strategy to replace Henry’s production that includes the use of different personnel and schemes to find the right matchups.

Here are three things the Chargers can lean on with Henry gone:

Virgil Green and the play-action game

Signed to a three-year, $8.6 million deal this offseason, Virgil Green was brought in because of his ability as a run blocker. However, Green has played for seven seasons in a similar offensive scheme while with the team’s AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos, which should ease his transition to the Chargers.

Whisenhunt said that Green possesses the speed and hands to have more of an impact in the passing game.

“Number one, we’ve played against him for a number of years,” Whisenhunt said. “Just from watching their offense when we’d go against a common opponent, I’ve seen him play. And then all the offseason work we did in evaluating him in free agency. You felt like you had a pretty good feel for what he could do.

“But I think more importantly is he’s played in this offense. Our terminology, what they do is very similar to what we do, so the learning curve isn’t as big. He’s done a nice job with that. I think when we get the pads on in camp and you can see in that arena, that forum, we’ll be very happy with what he brings to the table.”

Here’s one way the Chargers can get Green more involved — play-action passes in heavy formations when teams are expecting the Bolts to hammer the defense with Melvin Gordon.

Ten of Green’s 14 catches last season, including a 1-yard touchdown reception, came on play-action passes.

Moreover, Philip Rivers has been efficient in the play-action game.

Over the past two seasons, Rivers has completed 62 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions on play-action passes. Rivers’ 111.7 passer rating on play-action passes is No. 3 in the NFL over that period.

So plays like this 44-yard catch by Green against the Chargers in the season opener last year could be a way for Whisenhunt to get Green involved.
Keenan Allen had the third-most receiving yards and fifth-most catches among wide receivers between the numbers last season. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Expect more three-WR sets with Keenan Allen inside

Henry was such a critical weapon for the Chargers because he could make explosive plays in-between the numbers in the middle of the field. However, the Chargers have a premier playmaker and potentially an ascending talent that can help fill some of the void left by Henry’s absence.

The Chargers ran three-receiver sets on 584 offensive snaps last season, No. 20 in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Chargers used at least two tight ends on 374 offensive snaps last season, No. 8 in the league.

With Henry out and last year’s first-round selection Mike Williams expected to contribute at the start of the year, expect the number of three-receiver sets to go up in 2018, and the number of two-TE sets to decline.

Further, according to ESPN Stats & Statistics, Allen had the third-most receiving yards and fifth-most catches among wide receivers between the numbers last season. Allen could replace some of the production lost by Henry over the middle of the field.

With a limited amount of reps, Williams finished with four receptions for 51 receiving yards on 10 targets last season in-between the numbers. If healthy, that number likely will go up for the Clemson product. Because of his wide catch radius and athleticism, Williams is a prime target for Rivers to use in the middle of the field.

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Rivers shares conversation with GatesChargers QB Philip Rivers says that Antonio Gates will be ready if he is called upon to the return to the team.
If he returns, Antonio Gates still creates matchup issues

The Chargers remain noncommittal on whether the team will bring back Antonio Gates, although Rivers is a proponent of his teammate returning to the fold.

It’s fair to question whether Gates, who turns 38 years old on June 18, still has gas left in the tank.

Look, Gates is no longer a No. 1 tight end in the NFL. However, as a complementary player in the offense, Gates can still win favorable matchups with limited reps.

The Chargers played Gates in 478 offensive snaps last season. He totaled 30 catches for 316 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 51 targets. With Henry out the last two games of the 2017 season due to a lacerated kidney, Gates totaled 10 catches for 127 receiving yards and a score.

The Chargers could use him in a similar manner with comparable results in 2018.

Gates still commands the attention of the defense in the red zone, like this 3-yard TD against rookie safety Jamal Adams in a Week 16 contest against the New York Jets, or this 10-yard score matched up with linebacker Derrick Johnson against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14.

“This guy is one of the best to ever play the game,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s a Hall of Famer, so you always love to have a chance to work with a guy like that.”

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The NFL announced on Friday that a total of 32 compensatory choices in the 2018 NFL Draft have been awarded to 15 teams.
This year, that includes the Bolts.
The Los Angeles Chargers were awarded an additional seventh-round pick, which will be the 251st overall selection. The additional pick brings the Bolts’ total number of selections back up to seven as the team traded their seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Bills last summer in exchange for QB Cardale Jones.
Per the NFL, under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents (“CFA”) than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.
For the Chargers, that meant losing Manti Te’o to the New Orleans Saints and Danny Woodhead to the Baltimore Ravens while adding Russell Okung to the roster.
The NFL also explains that compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula. No club may receive more than four compensatory picks in any one year.
The last time the Chargers owned a compensatory pick was in 2016 when they were awarded the 175th overall pick in the fifth round. The Bolts used that pick to select outside linebacker Jatavis Brown.

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COSTA MESA, Calif. — One of the healthiest teams this season, the Los Angeles Chargers could have as many as four impact players miss Sunday’s game on the road against the New York Jets.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said that middle linebacker Denzel Perryman and defensive tackle Corey Liuget have been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Jets and will not play. Perryman suffered a hamstring strain against the Kansas City Chiefs and did not return, while Liuget has a knee sprain.

Two other players whose playing status is up in the air for this weekend are tight end Hunter Henry and running back Austin Ekeler. Henry suffered a lacerated kidney after a blindside hit by Kansas City defensive tackle Bennie Logan on the same play Ekeler broke his hand after fumbling the football.

Lynn said receiver Keenan Allen suffered a back injury but should be fine. Safety Adrian Phillips has soreness from an ankle injury but could still be available this week.

With the Chargers 7-7 and still holding on to faint playoff hopes, Lynn said he isn’t concerned about the injury bug cropping up this week.

“Injuries in the NFL happen,” Lynn said. “It’s a next-man-up is the mentality. Guys have been getting ready for this all year long. And sometimes when the next man steps up at this point in the season, it’s not necessarily an upgrade, but they’re fresh. When the starters have been playing 14-15 weeks and a guy comes in fresh, he can take advantage of some things.”

The Chargers also made a change at kicker for the third time this season, releasing Travis Coons and claiming Nick Rose off waivers. Rose was released by the Washington Redskins last week.

Coons missed an extra point against the Chiefs last week and clanked his first field goal attempt as a Charger, a 38-yarder, off the right upright. In three games, Coons finished 7-of-8 on field goals and 5-of-6 on extra points, but he recorded just four of 11 touchbacks on kickoffs.

“We’re looking for a kicker we can keep around here for a few years,” Lynn said. “Right now, we’re just kind of looking and evaluating guys. It doesn’t mean Travis can’t come back if Nick doesn’t work out. But we liked the job Nick did in Washington.”

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What an incredible win the Chargers had over the weekend against the Buffalo Bills.
Time to move on.
With the team kicking off again in less than 72 hours, the Bolts have no choice but to move on to a pivotal game Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys. Back in the playoff hunt, the Chargers have an opportunity to narrow that gap in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving Day.
“We’re not way out of the division and not way out of the hunt,” Philip Rivers said. “That’s exciting and encouraging. It shouldn’t be hard to keep us focused on the task at hand….You have to quickly forget about that and just be fired up that we still have everything in front of us. There’s obviously no room for any more hiccups, but excited about the opportunity ahead.”
“We made a point of emphasis after the game yesterday to move on to Dallas,” stated Head Coach Anthony Lynn. “So the staff has been focused on the Cowboys.”

Knowing they had a short week to prepare, the coaching staff actually got a head start preparing for Dallas during the bye week. However, the Cowboys have played two games since then, so much work is still needed to be done.
“Just the film study, we did some of that on the bye week,” the head coach continued. “The Cowboys have played a couple games since then, so it’s catch up on the film and comparing their personnel to ours, trying to find the matchups we want. Things like that. It’s a lot of film study. That’s what it is. You don’t have time to go back and evaluate (our Bills) game. That’s a half a day. We’ll do that this following weekend.”
At the same time, Lynn admitted the Chargers’ own game plan will be tailored due to the quick turnaround.
“You have to make sure you don’t do too much on a short week like this. The plays that go on better be the ones that count because you better make sure you have enough bullets when you go out and play on Thursday night. That’s the most challenging part.”
While the players would like nothing more than to celebrate a monumental win, they agree that they have fought too hard to get back into the hunt to get complacent.
As Rivers noted, the chance to rattle off two wins in a span of five days is an opportunity they must take advantage of. Number 17 isn’t a huge believer in momentum, but admits it does play a factor when two games are this close together.
“I don’t believe in the momentum thing, but hopefully that can kind of catapult us to Thursday and then we can keep staying in that flow,” Philip Rivers said.

That’s especially the case when the team finally was able to get into a groove offensively.
“For one, it’s nice to finally score over 24 points in a game. I know we haven’t been in a season ever here through nine weeks where we didn’t score more than 24 points. That was the part that was eating me alive. You see all those opponents’ scores the last nine weeks and see us only having three wins. That’s the part offensively where I felt a little bit like we’re letting our defense down. Here they are holding them to under 24 almost every week and we’re winning three games. I think from that standpoint, it’s nice to see 54 up there. That’s not something we expect every week obviously, but I think that was good for us. We got Keenan going and Hunter got a catch early and we got going a little bit. I think that can (carry over).”
Playing in a condensed timeframe is a whole new experience for the team’s rookie class.
“That’s why I was in early today, getting my body ready to go, because usually we have today to kind of recover, and then Tuesday as well,” Austin Ekeler acknowledged. “I’m definitely still sore from the game and feeling that, and this week we’re playing on Thursday. Just make sure I do all of my recovery, get it all in to make sure I’m as ready as I can be by then.”