Williams is a major loss for San Diego

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

This is the type of injury that can alter a team’s Super Bowl plans.

I’m not saying the San Diego Chargers’ chances of winning their first Super Bowl are dead as a result of the team putting defensive tackle Jamal Williams, one of the most disruptive defensive tackles in the NFL, on the injured reserve with a triceps injury.

But this is a devastating blow and it will change the way the Chargers play defense. They won’t be able to control the middle of the defense like they did with Williams.

This will have a similar effect on San Diego’s defense as last year when the team played all but one game without standout linebacker Shawne Merriman. It took San Diego about half the season to adjust playing without Merriman and it was never the same defense.

The loss of Williams will particularly hurt San Diego’s run defense. He was a premier run stuffer, who clogged the middle.

Backup Ogemdi Nwagbuo will have to play more and newly acquired Travis Johnson, who is injured and who won’t play Sunday against Baltimore, will likely play defensive tackle when he recovers. The Chargers wanted him to play defensive end when they acquired him from Houston.

Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera will have to get creative and find different ways to clog the middle without Williams. The loss of Williams means the Chargers really need Merriman to return to full strength. He said he is still some time away from being 100 percent. Merriman played well last week, but didn’t have the same pass-rush burst he had before being injured.

The Chargers were battered before the surprising news about Williams surfaced. Friday, San Diego coach Norv Turner said Williams was questionable to play against the Ravens.

Starting running back LaDainian Tomlinson and center Nick Hardwick, both with ankle problems, will not play against the Ravens. Rookie guard Louis Vasquez is also banged up with a knee injury. He may not play Sunday.

San Diego had to fight and come back to win at Oakland on Monday night. They now enter a tough three-game stretch with home games against the physical Ravens and Miami before hitting the road to play Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.

With Oakland and Kansas City playing well in defeat and Denver winning in Cincinnati, the bottom feeders in the AFC have some early life. If the improvement continues in those three cities and the problems continue to pile up in San Diego, this season could be more interesting than previously thought.