Some of the more casual NFL fans might barely be aware of any Los Angeles Chargers receivers beyond Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. And it is true that none of the others have plunged themselves into stardom. But – as most Chargers fans likely know – there is more than one talented WR3 on the depth chart, to the point where there may not even be enough room for everybody vying for a spot. This group of Chargers wide receivers is more crowded than it looks at first glance. Let’s sort out the entire group and discuss what we can expect from them this year.
Sorting Out the Crowded Los Angeles Chargers Wide Receivers Room
Keenan Allen & Mike Williams
Not too much needs to be discussed here because these are the two receivers whose roles are set in stone. Allen is the #1 go-to receiver, while Williams is the second option and more of a big-play threat. That said, it will be interesting to see how Williams is used in the new offense, especially given that this is the last year of his rookie deal and – barring a huge season from him – the Chargers may not be keeping him long-term. Time will tell how he factors into the team’s plans.
Jalen Guyton was the guy who had an unexpected semi-breakout last year and the only other receiver on the team that’s made a remote name for themselves. It’s worth mentioning that the role he played only really happened because of the previous coaching regime with Anthony Lynn. Two receivers (who will be mentioned later) were drafted last year to be the WR3, but they didn’t fit the role of deep pass threat that Lynn was looking for – and thus Guyton came in out of nowhere.
Guyton did fairly well in this capacity, pulling in 28 catches for 511 yards and three touchdowns. The problem is, he seemed to be a little bit of a one-trick pony – you scarcely saw him doing much else besides catching deep passes, and he had some issues with drops down the stretch. Given some of the more varied skill-sets of the other receivers, it wouldn’t be shocking if Guyton’s role got reduced greatly this year compared to last.
Out of all the receivers after Allen and Williams, Tyron Johnson arguably has the most upside of the bunch as a pass-catcher. He was first introduced as an alternate to Guyton – essentially just another guy to run fast and catch deep passes. However, he got involved more in the offense down the stretch due in part to injuries and did stand out during that time, showing some versatility and catching the ball reliably. He’s shown that he can both catch the deep passes and also be a threat in the shorter pass area. Johnson will have some competition, but he may carve out a bigger role this year.
Palmer is the biggest wildcard of the Chargers wide receivers – in part because he’s a rookie and thus we don’t know completely what to expect from him. He’s a bit of a bigger guy for a receiver, but that gives him the ability to out-fight some cornerbacks. He actually has some good tape against some of the very cornerbacks that just got drafted in the same class as him, which bodes well. The question is whether he’ll be able to keep it up in the NFL, but he still ought to be an interesting piece to watch due to his somewhat different skill-set from most of the other receivers listed here.
Hill at one time was supposed to be the breakout guy in 2020. He was labeled as a big steal for the Chargers, but that ended up not happening – and it wasn’t even entirely his fault. Hill is more of a slot-type receiver, and that simply wasn’t the skill-set Lynn was looking for in his WR3, as explained earlier. However, he did get some limited opportunities later in the season due to injuries and made the most of them. Given that we’re likely to see a little more shorter/dink-and-dunk passing in Joe Lombardi’s offense, Hill could come in handy in that regard.
Joe Reed was the other rookie who got brushed to the side alongside Hill for not having the right skill-set for Lynn’s offense. However, unlike everybody else, he never got the opportunities that the others did. Even when the receiving core was beset by injuries, he only received one target the entire season – which he didn’t catch. His usage was limited to some backfield plays and special teams work.
Given how everybody else got some chances down the stretch and Reed didn’t, that doesn’t seem to bode well for him. There are still some ways he could theoretically be used, but if we run under the assumption that only six receivers will be kept on the final roster, Reed may find himself the odd man out if he can’t find a way to contribute/stand out as a pass-catcher. Still, he might be worth keeping on the practice squad if it comes to that.
There are three other Chargers wide receivers currently on the 80-man roster, and none of them have much of a prayer for making the final roster barring an unexpected camp breakout. Those three are Jason Moore, Austin Proehl, and John Hurst. Moore at least has been with the Chargers, so he’s another candidate for the practice squad. Hurst was also a late addition to the practice squad last year and could remain in that capacity. Proehl has never been able to escape the practice squad during his time in the league, save for when he was with the XFL. So ultimately, these three are all fighting for practice squad spots at best.
The good thing about Joe Lombardi’s offense is that he likes to run some different rotations with different personnel, so even if certain guys are lower on the depth chart at the start of the regular season, they’ll get some chances. That could give us things like putting Allen in the slot occasionally and having Johnson or Palmer on the outside opposite Williams, just for one example. Regardless, it will be interesting to watch just which players get more looks this year. And we didn’t even go over the possibilities with regards to tight end personnel and how that could play into things…
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