This will not sound unfamiliar to Los Angeles Chargers fans, but the name of the game for much of this year has been injuries. And the injuries have definitely been felt at the wide receiver position. Keenan Allen injured his hamstring in Week 1 and, not including a failed attempt to return in Week 7, has been out two months. Then Mike Williams got hurt and has missed time. This has left the need for other receivers to step up – with mixed results at best. However, over the past few games, second-year receiver Josh Palmer has been stepping up – and had his true breakout performance on Sunday Night Football in a close loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Josh Palmer Steps Up Amid Los Angeles Chargers Wide Receiver Injuries
The Mixed Results
Palmer was effectively thrust into the WR2 role after Allen went down in Week 1. He did catch a long touchdown pass in Week 2, also against the Kansas City Chiefs, but was mostly quiet otherwise. For the most part, he struggled to get much going after that, as he was mostly used for short, quick passes that often did not go anywhere, and he also seemed to be struggling to get much separation.
However, it is worth noting that Justin Herbert’s injury during this period may not have been helping matters, as it forced the Chargers to turn into a checkdown offense a lot of the time. On Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos, he hauled in nine passes – but for only 57 yards, seeming to signal how passive the offense in general was at this time. Nevertheless, Palmer did not seem to be taking the step forward at this point that many had hoped for.
Enter Week 9, and though this was the point where Herbert started looking healthy again, both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams were out. This left the Chargers receiving corps in complete shambles with Josh Palmer and DeAndre Carter as the top two receivers. Palmer had to step up at this point – and he finally did, bringing in eight catches for 106 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career.
This performance was definitely promising and was key in helping the Chargers win that game when Herbert barely had anybody reliable to throw to. The only catch was that it was against the Atlanta Falcons, who have had one of the worst passing defenses in the league. It was hard to say if it would stick. The following week didn’t produce encouraging results when he was again in the WR1 role but only pulled in three catches for 44 yards on eight targets against a much stingier San Francisco 49ers defense.
Sunday Night Football against the Chiefs saw both Allen and Williams return, finally. However, Williams left the game fairly early after re-aggravating his ankle. Though Allen appeared to be healthy and in normal form, Herbert still looked Palmer’s way often – and he produced, beginning on the opening drive with a wide-open 50-yard touchdown catch. This was especially impressive given that Palmer is not especially fast and that was the sort of long pass you’d expect maybe DeAndre Carter (or Jalen Guyton, if were healthy) to be on the other end of.
Herbert goes deep to @Flowercitysown for an opening drive TD! #BoltUp
📺: #KCvsLAC on NBC
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/arbJ1PQ30A pic.twitter.com/rTdVjwBI5p
— NFL (@NFL) November 21, 2022
Most of his catches after that were shorter ones, but he still made some more plays. More importantly, he also caught the go-ahead touchdown catch for six yards with under two minutes to go after getting open again. Unfortunately, the Chargers left the Chiefs too much time and lost 30-27 anyway; however, Palmer played a big role in putting them in a position to win – which the defense was unable to keep. Palmer finished with eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
This is not the first time in recent memory that a young Chargers receiver has broken out against the Chiefs on primetime in a time of need. Mike Williams had his big breakout performance in a similar position in 2018 after Allen went down early, scoring three touchdowns and a game-winning two-point conversion.
Depending on if Williams misses more time, Palmer’s talents may be needed further. But even if they aren’t, having a third option at wide receiver with some degree of reliability is a big help. One cannot help but wish this level of play had come along sooner, but maybe that simply wasn’t possible with Herbert playing hurt and not being able to push the ball downfield as easily. Whatever the case, Palmer should continue to be a contributor to the offense going forward.
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