COSTA MESA — In his first NFL regular-season game, Desmond King saw the field for just three defensive plays.
In his second? The defensive back introduced himself to StubHub Center with the Chargers’ starting defense — and stayed off the sideline for another 55 snaps.
“I expected to play,” King said, “but not that much.”
The fifth-round pick out of Iowa is one of several Chargers whose playing time on defense has yo-yoed through the first two weeks of the season — the result of injuries to a pair of key players: Denzel Perryman, the middle linebacker who underwent preseason ankle surgery; and Jason Verrett, the former Pro Bowl cornerback whose knee issues cropped up again after playing in the season opener.
Those two absences have left head coach Anthony Lynn, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and the rest of the Chargers coaching staff with a puzzle: How to best maximize the skill sets of players who didn’t enter the season as starters.
Heading into Sunday’s matchup against Kansas City (1:25 p.m., CBS), only six Chargers defenders played at least 60 percent of snaps in both outings this season: safeties Tre Boston and Jahleel Addae, defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, linebacker Jatavis Brown and cornerback Casey Hayward.
Verrett once looked set for a spot on that list. After having surgery to repair a torn ACL last October, the 26-year-old played nearly every snap in the Chargers’ season-opening loss to the Broncos. He practiced the following Wednesday, but has been sidelined ever since — his knee preventing him from changing direction like he did pre-injury.
His replacement is Trevor Williams, an undrafted second-year pro who began his career on the practice squad. Williams is normally the starting nickel back, so his move to outside opened up a vacancy for King — whose workload increased more than twenty-fold from Week 1 to 2.
“I think it definitely put me in a good comfortable spot,” King said. “I know that I have the ability to play with guys at the next level. It’s giving me a chance to show what my talents are.”
The front seven has looked jumbled too. On the defensive line, Darius Philon has emerged as a potential starter, taking reps away from former first-round pick Corey Liuget. In the Chargers’ opener at Denver, Liuget was on the field 70 percent of the time, dwarfing Philon’s 19 percent. Against the Dolphins last week, the breakdown was 53 and 47 percent — with Philon holding the slight…