COSTA MESA — Two months ago, Anthony Lynn all but threatened to bench Rayshawn Jenkins.
The Chargers’ first-year head coach was still simmering after a loss in New England, one that ended his team’s three-win streak. And when someone asked him about mistakes on special teams — something that has plagued the Chargers all season — Lynn wasn’t shy about pointing out specific blunders. Of note, he said, was an illegal block by his punt return unit, one that forced his offense to start on its own 9-yard line.
“I have to look at if I’m going to play that rookie — if I am going to allow him to hurt this team again in that way,” Lynn said then. “I have to take a hard look at that.”
Lynn never mentioned Jenkins by name, but it was easy enough to figure out. With less than seven minutes left in the Chargers’ eventual 21-13 loss to the Patriots, the rookie safety was flagged for an illegal block above the waist.
It was his third penalty on special teams in a month.
Lynn apparently cooled down later on. Although the Chargers’ staff did talk to Jenkins about his mistakes, they never threatened his playing time. The fourth-round pick out of Miami has maintained a consistent role, playing on at least 80 percent of special teams snaps in four of the last seven games.
“I’m a young player,” Jenkins said Friday. “I’ll help the team more than I hurt the team. They definitely had to address the penalties. You don’t want to just brush it off, or other guys will think that’s OK.
“The coaches definitely talked to me. But they didn’t say anything about benching.”
An injury may force the Chargers (8-7) to give him a larger role. Fourth-year safety Adrian Phillips (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Raiders, robbing the defensive of a versatile chess piece. The Chargers often deploy six defensive backs in their dime package — and when they do, they ask Phillips to play like a hybrid linebacker.