The one consistent element during Washington's roller coaster ride to 5-5 -- three victories, two losses, a 35-point victory followed by a 36-point loss followed by a late victory and then two late defeats -- has been its kick coverage.
The Redskins are tops in the NFL in kickoff return average allowed (19.3 yards) and fifth in punt return average allowed (5.0).
But Sunday against San Diego, Washington will be without the menacing 6-foot-3, 278-pound Mike Sellers, who leads the special teams with 22 tackles, and the reliable James Thrash, a master at downing punts.
Sellers suffered a hairline fracture of a rib last Sunday against Oakland while Thrash pulled his right hamstring. Neither will play against the Chargers, who are just 27th in punt return average but rank fifth on kickoff returns thanks to the diminutive Darren Sproles.
"There's no time to be crying the blues and saying, 'We don't have this, we don't have that,'" special teams coach Danny Smith said.
"It's hard to lose Mike and James, but the rest of us have to step up," said Khary Campbell, who's second with 17 special team tackles and along with Rock Cartwright is one of two healthy Redskins who play on all four return and coverage units. "Mike brings that intimidation factor. A lot of teams don't want to wedge it up the middle because he's coming hard. And they don't want to do a lot of trickery, like fake reverses, because James is always there to sniff that out."
Player Personnel Notes
--RB/KR Ladell Betts hasn't been on the field since spraining his knee at Tampa Bay on Nov. 13. Betts didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday and isn't expected to play on Sunday against San Diego.
--LDT Cornelius Griffin, out since re-straining a hip flexor on the first series of the 36-0 loss to the Giants on Oct. 30, practiced Thursday and could return against the Chargers. Otherwise, Demetric Evans would start a fourth straight game in his place.
--OLB LaVar Arrington returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with a pulled thigh muscle. He'll play on Sunday.
--OLT Chris Samuels returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the knee he sprained against the Giants. Samuels hasn't missed a game, and he will play against San Diego.
--FS Sean Taylor returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the sprained ankle that kept him out at Tampa Bay. Taylor will play Sunday.
--SS Ryan Clark returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the sprained knee he suffered against Oakland. Clark is expected to play Sunday.
--RB Clinton Portis was ill and didn't practice Thursday but should be ready for the Chargers.--DE Nic Clemons didn't practice Thursday because of an ailing knee but should be ready for Sunday.