Chris Watt, a rookie third-round pick, is expected to start at center on Sunday in Oakland. This after the team placed Doug Legursky on injured-reserve with a knee injury endured last week against the Jets.
"You feel for a guy like that," said Mike McCoy of Legursky. "He's a true pro. He came in here and fit in from Day One. He did it exactly the way we wanted him to do it. All he wanted to do was learn how Philip [Rivers] wanted to do things."
The Chargers also have Rich Ohrnberger, but he is battling a back injury that has forced him to miss the last two games. It may be overly optimistic to think he can return in time to face the Raiders.
San Diego will add C Trevor Robinson off the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad to take Legursky's place on the roster. Robinson played with Watt at Norte Dame, which should help him get acclimated faster. The third-year lineman has some experience under his belt, having played in 19 games (seven starts) during his first two seasons.
The biggest challenge will be this week against the Raiders. Watt, a college guard, will be making his first NFL start and will have to make all the calls and adjustments at the line of scrimmage. While he is considered the team's center of the future, the Chargers prefer a veteran at that position, which is why Legursky was rushed into the starting lineup after Nick Hardwick and Ohrnberger were injured.
Robinson will likely be active this week, although it would be unfair to expect him to step in and play at a high level after just a couple practices with his new team.
"No one is going to feel sorry for us on Sunday if so-and-so is not playing," McCoy said. "We have our systems in place. We may make a tweak here and there, but we won't all of a sudden go run the zone read because we don't have a certain player. We're not all of a sudden going to change everything on defense just because this guy is down. We're not going to change our kicking game because we don’t have this one player. We're going to do what we do."
The situation is less dire at running back, as fourth-stringer Branden Oliver looks like a revelation. He is coming off a monster games against the Jets in which he carried 19 times for 114 yards and caught four passes for 68 yards. He also scored twice, once on the ground and again through the air.
Oliver is an explosive player who runs with runs with a terrific body lean. He is already reminding Chargers fans of some of their favorite players from the recent past, as he is making defenders miss like Darren Sproles and running them over a la Mike Tolbert.
Shaun Draughn, who just joined the team on Sept. 23, saw his first game action with the Chargers Sunday, carrying 10 times for 19 yards. It was good experience for Draughn, and although his rushing average was poor, it should be noted the Jets were loading up to stop the run at that point as the Chargers were clearly just trying to run out the clock.
Donald Brown suffered a concussion against the Jets and his availability for the Raiders game will not be known until later in the week. Even if he is able to play, the Chargers will likely give Oliver the bulk of the work, which would serve to protect Brown and give Oliver a chance to keep this momentum going.
The electric rookie would love nothing more than a chance to run over the rival Raiders, who have the league's second-worst run defense (158.2 yards per game). But it will take a similar passion and commitment to the run that the Chargers showed last week against New York.
"We're not going to take anybody lightly," McCoy said. "You take a team lightly, you get beat in this league."
What do you think about the Robinson pick-up? Discuss inside the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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