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Chargers are getting healthier at a crucial time

If you’ve been drumming your fingers while waiting impatiently for the real Chargers, the full-strength Chargers, to finally show up and play this season, well, you’re going to see something closer to it Sunday when they face the Arizona Cardinals.

Wide receiver Keenan Allen looked good during the Chargers’ loss last Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, and he looked even better during practice in preparation for this Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. There were no signs of the injured hamstring that hampered him for two months.

Backup running back Joshua Kelley is set to be activated from injured reserve after he was sidelined for the past four games because of a knee injury. He said this past week that he wasn’t 100%, but good enough to step back onto the field to spell Austin Ekeler now and then.

Quarterback Justin Herbert continues to look better and better – more mobile and more like his old self after fracturing rib cartilage during the Chargers’ loss to the Chiefs in Week 2 in Kansas City. He appears to be more fluid and more at ease in the pocket with each passing week.

Not that the Chargers are at full health. Edge rusher Joey Bosa remains sidelined by a groin injury. Defensive end Christian Covington (pectoral), wide receiver Jalen Guyton (knee), cornerback J.C. Jackson (knee), defensive lineman Austin Johnson (knee) and left tackle Rashawn Slater (biceps) are out for the season.

So the Chargers won’t be as whole as they were when they stepped onto the field at SoFi Stadium for their season-opening game Sept. 11 against the Las Vegas Raiders, but day by day, they’re getting closer to resembling the team that was assembled during the offseason.

The returns of Allen last week and Kelley this week make the Chargers a more difficult team for opposing teams to defend. Allen and Kelley give Herbert more options when dropping back to pass or handing off the ball. Herbert will have another key target when Mike Williams (ankle) is sound again.

“He’s a leader,” Herbert said of Allen. “He’s such a tough competitor. To have a guy like that out there helps the offense a ton. He has seen so much and has eight-plus years of football (experience), and he has had so much experience and success in this league. He has such a great head on his shoulders.

“He has done a great job for the younger receivers of just getting them up to speed. Anything he has to offer advice-wise, he’s been able to do that, and he’s been a huge help to our offense.”

Kelley has an infectious personality and is an uplifting presence in the locker room and on the field. But there’s more to his game than a constant smile, according to Chargers coach Brandon Staley. There are yards to be gained and blocks to be made, and Kelley can help in both areas.

“We miss his production because he was playing at a really high level and doing a good job for us in the kicking game, too,” Staley said of Kelley, a valuable backup to workhorse Ekeler. “It’s going to be good to have him back. He’s been working really hard. Looking forward to getting him back out there.”

The Chargers’ offense has averaged 23 points and 352 yards per game through the season’s first 10 games, but it hasn’t produced the sort of high-scoring game some preseason pundits expected. Injuries have taken their toll, with constant lineup changes a feature of the season.

With the Chargers stuck at the .500 mark with a 5-5 record going into Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, it would be a great help for Herbert to have the offense playing at something close to full strength. It might be a week or more before that happens, but it’s getting closer.

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