SS Eric Weddle (Danny Murphy/Scout.com)
With Shawne Merriman being out for at least a couple of weeks, all eyes turn to Marques Harris, his replacement. Of course it is a step down, Harris for Merriman, but in some ways they possess the same skills.
Marques Harris' game is all about speed; he doesn't have the muscle against the run that Shawne Merriman does. But Harris has filled in well in the past and is a steady part of the rotation at linebacker on passing downs. He should do fine.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--DT Brandon McKinney will see additional playing time with Jamal Williams ailing. McKinney played well late in the Chargers' win over the Titans on Sunday.
--RT Jeromey Clary remains in the starting lineup, as it looks as if the switch to him from Shane Olivea is permanent.
--WR Craig Davis impressed Norv Turner with his punt return skills Sunday and will get a long look at filling that role this week -- even if Darren Sproles (knee) is declared fit.
--CB Antonio Cromartie is one interception shy of setting the Chargers' single-season franchise mark of 10.
--WR Kassim Osgood continues to shine on special teams; he was a Pro Bowl selection at that spot last year. He leads the Chargers with 14 special teams tackles, and he downed two punts on the Titans 1 last Sunday.
--S Eric Weddle, a rookie, continues to steal reps from starter Marlon McCree in the base defense. Weddle is close to taking over a starting role.
GAME PLAN: Sell out early on the running downs with a series of running-play blitzes and never let one of the NFL's worst running attacks get untracked. If the Chargers can do that -- no guarantee with all of their injuries -- they can force QB Jon Kitna to beat them. Kitna is having a solid year, but he can get happy feet when pestered. If the Chargers can pin their ears back on obvious passing downs, it would eventually pay off.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Chargers secondary, with NFL interception leader Antonio Cromartie vs. Lions wide receiving corps, which includes first-round pick Calvin Williams -- Cromartie's skills are such that some quarterbacks have a hard time believing he is that good, so they throw at him -- as did the Titans' Vince Young did last week. Cromartie is the real deal, but he still figures to be tested by the veteran Jon Kitna, who is in the NFL's top five this season in completions, yards and attempts. The Lions were known for having loads of wide receivers, but Mike Williams is no longer around and Roy Williams is out with a knee injury. So the onus falls on rookie Calvin Williams (37 catches, 553 yards, four TDs), Shaun McDonald (67-800-4) and Mike Furrey (48-537-1). Cromartie and Quentin Jammer figure to be tested if the Lions running game has its usual struggles and Kitna is forced to pass.
Chargers return game vs. Lions' struggling coverage units -- The Chargers could be without their regular return specialist, Darren Sproles, as he nurses a sore knee. If he saw the numbers the Lions coverage units are compiling -- both among the bottom of the NFL's ranks -- he might feel better quickly. But Michael Turner is no slouch in replacing Sproles; Cromartie might get a chance or two as well. And rookie Craig Davis impressed coach Norv Turner so much last Sunday while filling in for Sproles that Turner said the position would be open to competition when Sproles returns. This is an area where the Chargers could collect some great field position.
--QB Philip Rivers (knee) didn't work Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday. However, he is moving better, and he does have a chance to play.
--DT Jamal Williams (ankle) didn't work on Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday. He could be down this week.
--OLB Shawne Merriman didn't work Wednesday and won't play this week or the next. Marques Harris, who is a decent pass rusher, will replace him.
--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) is down at least one more week; he didn't practice Wednesday.
--FB Lorenzo Neal (leg) is likely out for the season.
--RG Mike Goff (foot) didn't work Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday. He probably will go; he has a high tolerance for pain.
--TE Antonio Gates (back) didn't work Wednesday, but he would have to suffer a real setback not to play Sunday.