Los Angeles Chargers star rookie quarterback Justin Herbert had to put a bit more on his shoulders than usual on Thursday Night Football against the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s been the primary reason they’re competitive. And in the game against the Raiders, he not only had to deal with more suspect play-calling from Anthony Lynn and *two* misses from struggling kicker Michael Badgley in the final five minutes of regulation — he also had to deal with a depleted wide receiver corps for the first time.
Both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams were quite questionable coming into the game. They were active, but on a snap count and ultimately only had three catches between them. Herbert still had Hunter Henry at tight end, but beyond that, he had to rely more on the backups. And fortunately, they did not disappoint much – if at all – as they helped Herbert bail out the Chargers for a 30-27 win in overtime to push them to 5-9 with a second straight win.
Tyron Johnson Among Los Angeles Chargers Wide Receiver Backups That Produced in Week 15 Win
While the primary #3 wide receiver for a while has been Jalen Guyton, another receiver who has been primarily a deep threat has started getting more looks even before the Thursday night game. Tyron Johnson – another undrafted receiver like Guyton – had brought in a few 50+ yard passes of his own. But he never had more than two catches in a game. But unexpectedly in the Week 14 game against the Atlanta Falcons, he suddenly started getting more looks and brought in six catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
While Johnson didn’t get quite as many looks in the Thursday night game, he still was productive. He brought in three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown on a 26-yard bullet from Herbert. Given his sudden bump in looks and production, he’s becoming an interesting player to watch as he’s proving he’s not just a one-trick pony.
Jalen Guyton is the one backup receiver of the bunch that viewers are most likely to be familiar with. He’s had a decent year as a deep threat and has made a few plays elsewhere on the field as well. And he was the most targeted wide receiver on the night with six looks (only Henry had more targets overall). He brought four of them in for 91 yards. It was actually a mildly mixed performance because he dropped a pass on third down in the first half. But he also brought in the 53-yard pass in overtime that set up the Chargers at the two-yard line, where after a few failed attempts Herbert sneaked it in himself for the game-winner.
K.J. Hill is probably the biggest pleasant surprise here. This year’s seventh-round pick initially looked to be a possible front-runner for the #3 wide receiver spot but didn’t have the big-play ability that Guyton and Johnson did – which is what Anthony Lynn was looking for – so he got buried on the depth chart instead. The result has been him only having four catches all year up to this point, and even being a healthy scratch once or twice.
But on Thursday night, he brought in all three of his targets for 39 yards – and thus was arguably the most efficient wide receiver on the night, even if he didn’t have as many looks. One of them was a 25-yard play where he was rather open, while the other two were shorter slot-type catches. With both Guyton and Johnson doing well right now, it’s a little more understandable if Hill isn’t making his way up the depth chart just yet. But he proved he should be getting a few more looks in a game.
Obviously, the bulk of the credit for this game falls on Herbert’s shoulders, who bailed his team out big time and on primetime. But these ball-catchers deserve some credit too. Even when Herbert’s throwing dimes, they’ve still got to catch it, especially when the top two options are barely available. And aside from that one Guyton drop on third down, they did just that (and Guyton made up for it later anyway).
While we’ve been seen promising things from at least two of these three guys lately, it’s still good to see that they can produce if they have to become more primary targets. And a relief, given that we were not entirely sure before the season started if there would be a dependable third option at wide receiver. Herbert won the game and impressed everybody watching, but the unexpected depth of the Chargers wide receiver corps was on display too.
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