Injuries in both the secondary and at linebacker could have a ripple effect on special teams, and coach Ted Daisher is ready to adjust as needed.
"We'll have to sort that out (and) see who is healthy as we go along, see what changes are going to be made on defense and then we'll adjust and adapt," Daisher said. "Whoever we have there, I'm confident they'll do a good job."
The season-ending injury to Ellis Hobbs, JoseliO Hanson's suspension and an injury to Akeem Jordan will prompt a series of changes to Daisher's units, as all three players have been key contributors this season.
Hobbs "had just hit his stride" and was averaging 24 yards on his returns.
"He had a couple of nice returns against the Giants and obviously the good one against Dallas," Daisher said. "It's a shame. You hate to see anybody get hurt, but we'll have to get someone else in there and I'm sure they'll step in and do a good job."
Provided he's healthy, Quintin Demps is expected to reprise his 2008 role as the primary kick returner. Demps averaged a healthy 25.3 yards on 52 returns last season, including his 100-yarder against the Ravens. He has averaged 18.3 yards on three returns this season. If a sore ankle prevents Demps from playing, Daisher will turn to rookie Jeremy Maclin, who has averaged 17.5 yards on his two opportunities.
San Diego held Giants return man Domenik Hixon in check last week, yielding an average of just 18 yards per return. The previous three weeks, the Raiders averaged 29 yards per kickoff return, the Chiefs 24.5 and the Broncos 31.6, including a touchdown.
The absence of Hanson and Jordan will impact the coverage teams.
Jordan, who leads the team with 12 special teams tackles, hyperextended his knee last Sunday while covering the kickoff following David Akers 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
"I don't think his injury is very severe," Daisher said. "We're going to miss him. He was having a great year helping us out on special teams."
Hanson, a gunner on the coverage units, has 10 tackles and a forced fumble this season. One player that will get a look in his role is wide receiver Reggie Brown.
"We're going to work some different guys in there," Daisher said. "A variety of people will get an opportunity to do that."
Whatever players Daisher has at his disposal come Sunday afternoon, they will have to contend with diminutive playmaker Darren Sproles, who is averaging 25 yards on kick returns and 12.5 yards on punt returns. Sproles has had three long kickoff returns, including 66 and 59-yarders vs. Oakland in Week 1, as well as a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown against Denver in week 5.
An all-purpose threat, Sproles leads the league with 1,397 combined yards. But Daisher is focused on limiting Sproles' impact on special teams.
"He's a big play waiting to happen," Daisher said. "I think he is an excellent returner, very elusive, very quick. We're going to have to be really disciplined and be in our lanes to control him."
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 7:03 p.m., November 12