Chargers DL Austin Johnson Out For Season

One of the Chargers’ key pieces in an effort to bolster their run defense this offseason, Austin Johnson will be sidelined for the rest of the year. Brandon Staley said a knee fracture will keep the veteran defensive lineman out.

Johnson also sustained MCL damage during the Bolts’ Week 9 win in Atlanta, Daniel Popper of The Athletic tweets. The seventh-year veteran is signed through 2023, having agreed to a two-year, $14MM pact early in free agency.

Thirtieth against the run last season, the Chargers reassembled their interior defensive line this year. They added Johnson, ex-Ram Sebastian Joseph-Day and fifth-round pick Otito Ogbonnia to the equation. Los Angeles still rosters Jerry Tillery, but the former first-round pick suffered a back injury weightlifting last week. Tillery missed Sunday’s game against the Falcons. Despite the upgrade efforts, the Bolts rank 29th against the run after eight games. Johnson’s injury certainly will not help matters.

Johnson, 28, elevated his value during a two-year stay with the Giants. The former Titans spot starter worked as a backup in 2020 but started all 17 Giants games last season, leading to a nice free agency payday. Johnson’s Chargers deal included $10.63MM guaranteed. While that does not ensure he will be back with the team in 2023, when an extensive rehab effort will now be required, the seventh-year vet did well to collect some guaranteed cash beyond the first year of his contract.

The Chargers also lost right tackle Trey Pipkins during their Falcons matchup. Pipkins aggravated an MCL sprain, Staley said. Pipkins still has a chance to play in Week 10, per Staley. Illustrating how no two injuries are alike, 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell has lost half the season to an MCL sprain.

A former third-round pick, Pipkins has bounced in and out of L.A.’s lineup. This year, however, he won a training camp competition against Storm Norton to commandeer the right tackle gig. Pipkins has started every Chargers game this season. Norton, last year’s primary right-side starter, replaced him Sunday. The Chargers are already playing shorthanded up front, with Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater likely out for the season due to a biceps tear.

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