Can Chargers' offense survive through injuries?

There’s no doubt, it’s time to worry in San Diego.

With the start of the regular season looming in exactly three weeks, three key offensive players are on the shelf for the team. At least two of them are likely to stay on the shelf when the Chargers open the season on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” Sept. 9 and a third has to make a fast return to avoid joining them there.

The preseason has been a disaster for the Chargers who entered training camp confident they were ready to end a two-year playoff drought.

In the preseason opener, starting running back Ryan Mathews suffered a broken clavicle on his only carry of the game. Mathews has vowed to return for the Oakland game, but there is a chance he could miss a couple of games. Then, Saturday, promising second-season receiver Vincent Brown broke his ankle.

The team says he will miss about five games. Depending on is recovery, that timetable could lengthen. Left tackle Jared Gaither has missed virtually all of training camp with a back issue and there is concern about when he will come back.

Can an offense survive the early season with its workhorse tailback, key receiver and Philip Rivers’ blindside protector?

"I don’t like what I’m seeing in San Diego,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc said.

It’s a shame because this team looked so good in training camp. Injuries have been prevalent in San Diego for the past three seasons. The team was looking forward to some good fortune when it comes to health. It doesn’t appear that will happen.

Here are some keys to San Diego to overcome the losses of Mathews and Brown, who unlike Gaither, will surely miss some time in the regular season.

Rivers must take over: Rivers had great success in 2010 despite dealing with several issues at receiver. Last year, when there was trouble on the offensive line, Rivers pressed for the first 10 games of the season and he made a lot of mistakes. He has to learn from that. He has to carry this team, but not press.

Gates has to stay healthy: After dealing with foot issues for the past four years, Gates, 32, looks healthy and he has been brilliant. He is Rivers’ favorite target. With issues elsewhere, Gates has to be a game changer.

Health at receiver and running back: With Mathews and Brown out, the Chargers can get by. But they have to stay healthy. A receiving crew of Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal (who has been dealing injuries all camp), can work while Brown heals. At running back, the Chargers have several pieces who can get by for the short term. But the injury bug must stop now in San Diego.