Chargers’ defense ready for a second helping of Lamar Jackson

COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers‘ defense was not surprised or in awe by anything Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson did when these two teams faced off two weeks ago.

“It helps a lot because it’s fresh,” defensive end Isaac Rochell said. “You don’t have to dig weeks back or game plan for a team you’ve never seen before. So it’s good for us that we’ve seen them two weeks ago, and we just have to sharpen the game plan and get better, pick up on things that you didn’t pick up on the first time.”

The Chargers held the dynamic rookie quarterback to 39 rushing yards — his lowest as a starter — and the run-first Baltimore offense to 159 total rushing yards under the guidance of Jackson in the first matchup.

The Ravens have averaged a league-high 230 rushing yards a contest since Jackson took over as the team’s starter in Week 11, and they are tops in the NFL in time of possession.

Bolts defensive players say containing Baltimore’s ground game will be critical again in the rematch.

“They’re going to run it right at us,” Chargers safety Derwin James said. “We know that, and we have to be ready to play, ready to get off blocks.”

James played against Jackson three times in college while at Florida State, so he knew what to expect going into the first contest against the Ravens.

The key to stopping Jackson, according to James?

“You just have to play rules football, and you need every hat to the ball,” he said. “It’s not like a normal game where you’re like, ‘OK, he’s going to make the tackle.’ He might cut it back, so we need you.”

The Chargers also went with speed over size to help defend Baltimore’s rushing attack. The Chargers played at least six defensive backs on 48 of the 60 (80 percent) defensive plays against the Ravens in Week 16.

On the season, the Chargers have played at least six defensive backs a league-high 584 defensive snaps, allowing 5.43 yards per play, No. 10 in the NFL.

“We go in with the same mentality every week — that’s what is great about our defense,” said Adrian Phillips, a hybrid safety that plays a lot of snaps at linebacker in the Chargers’ defensive scheme. “We try to be the best, and we want to be the best. Sometimes we don’t hit the mark, and sometimes we do. But week in and week out, that’s our mentality.”

Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said one of the reasons his defense has been successful playing smaller personnel is because of the defensive line’s versatility.

However, that versatility could take a hit with the uncertain availability of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. The Cal product has been dealing with his daughter Makenna being in prenatal intensive care in Omaha, Nebraska, battling a defective heart condition.

Mebane’s daughter is being treated at Children’s Hospital of Omaha, and he has missed the past two days of practice.

The Chargers also are thin at linebacker, with starters Jatavis Brown (ankle), Denzel Perryman (knee) and Kyzir White (knee) all out for the season due to injuries.

“The way we’re built now with some of the injuries taking place and how we shuffle around, we probably have more speed on the field,” Bradley said. “So whenever you have more speed, it’s going to appear faster, too, but we put a lot of strain on our defensive line now.

“When you have two lighter linebackers that are playing for us like we have now, you have to stress somebody. We put a lot of stress on the D-line because of it. Some of the techniques that we asked them to play, just to slow down some of the run game that we’ve been seeing.”

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