A few months ago, even most Los Angeles Chargers fans probably had no idea who Jalen Guyton was. Even though he was on the active roster late in the 2019 season, he never had a single catch. Initially, there was little reason to expect he’d be a part of the offense at all. The Chargers drafted two rookie wide receivers, and it was figured that one or both of them would fill the vacant wide receiver spot(s) behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. And yet, here we are; six games done and Guyton has three touchdowns, two of them for 70+ yards. Where did this come from?
Unexpected Rise of Jalen Guyton
As previously stated, it was originally assumed that one of the rookies would fill the third (and possibly fourth, though they don’t run a ton of four-wide sets) wide receiver spots – Joe Reed and K.J. Hill. However, as it turned out, head coach Anthony Lynn was looking for something very specific for that spot. In the past, they had Tyrell Williams and/or Travis Benjamin in that slot, and had used them heavily as deep pass threats. Unfortunately, this didn’t work so well in 2019 as Williams had departed and Benjamin got injured early in the season, forcing them to rely on the likes of Andre Patton in that spot – which was generally disastrous.
With Benjamin (and eventually Patton) gone this year, Lynn was looking for somebody new to fit that spot. Neither Hill nor Reed could fit the bill there. They both made the roster and have been in the rotation occasionally. But for that speed/deep pass threat Lynn wanted, he would have to look elsewhere. The result was a couple of receivers making the roster that probably nobody had heard of (outside of fans who closely watched training camp) – Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson (who also has one long touchdown catch this year).
Guyton was an undrafted free agent in 2019, initially signed by the Dallas Cowboys. However, he did not survive the final roster cuts. The Chargers signed him to their practice squad in October. They activated him about a month later due to how depleted their wide receiver corps was. As previously mentioned, he didn’t record any catches.
As it turned out, Guyton was closer to what Lynn was looking for as he became the primary third receiver. While we didn’t see that intended result until Week 4, he did catch his first touchdown in Week 2 for 14 yards, on what was also Justin Herbert’s first career touchdown pass.
Week 4 saw him unleash his potential, as he only had one catch but it went for a 72-yard touchdown on a long bullet from Herbert. On Week 5, he again only had one catch, but it went for 49 yards. And on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he had two catches for 84 yards including a 70-yard touchdown off another long pass from Herbert. So far, Guyton doesn’t have a lot of catches – only eight – but he has 258 yards and three touchdowns. His role may not be huge in quantity, but he’s been extremely effective with the looks he has gotten.
Last Word on Jalen Guyton
Guyton still is ultimately a lower option on this Chargers team behind Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry. But Herbert seems to have gotten in a rhythm of trying to get him a deep ball at least once a game. This may also point to Herbert’s ability to throw very accurate deep passes. But even if Guyton’s not the most critical piece on this team by any means, his ability to stretch the field and reliably catch the ball is still a bonus for this offense – and a welcome one at that.
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