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AFC Executive Believes First-Round Bust Can Turn It Around In 2024

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnston had a rookie season to forget, but Joe Hortiz believes in the former first-round pick
Quentin Johnston

The Los Angeles Chargers selected Quentin Johnston hoping that he could be the heir to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Entering the 2023 season, the TCU product was supposed to join with two veterans to form a receiving trio capable of going blow-for-blow with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Mike Williams tore his ACL early in the season, opening the door for Quentin Johnston to play a major role in the passing attack. The rookie was not up for the challenge, finishing the season with 38 receptions for 431 yards and two touchdowns. The team stumbled to a 5-12 record and fired head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco.

Jim Harbaugh and Joe Hortiz are now running the show, and even though neither person played a role in bringing Quentin Johnston onto the roster, both believe he can be a meaningful part of the passing attack moving forward. Hortiz, in particular, talked about the embattled wide receiver and doesn’t seem too concerned about the slow start to his career.

“That’s what a lot of rookie seasons look like,” Hortiz said, via the team’s website. “But he flashed some really impressive traits and the good thing is when you’re looking at your roster, you’re looking at it all the time, you’re watching the film all the time. Every time you put on the tape, you see the talent and I expect him to make the jump. I know we have the right coaches to help him make the jump. I feel good about the guys that are here.”

Joe Hortiz Believes Quentin Johnston Can Bounce Back In 2024

Joe Hortiz needs to be right if the Los Angeles Chargers plan to be even remotely competitive in the upcoming season. After parting ways with Williams and Allen, Johnston headlines the most unimpressive group of receivers in the NFL. With most draft analysts believing that the Chargers will use their first-round pick on an offensive tackle, it appears as though Johnston will be starting for this team in Week 1.

Perhaps this is all just a verbal smokescreen, but the Chargers actions imply that they truly believe Quentin Johnston has what it takes to turn it around. The only question is whether or not they are correct to place this much faith in the second-year pro.

Can He Turn It Around?

Only time will tell for sure, but just about every data point suggests that Quentin Johnston will not be able to become a reliable wide receiver. Rookies can take time to adjust to life in the NFL, but few struggled as much as Chargers first-round pick. Hortiz believes that most rookie seasons looked like Johnston’s, but the numbers don’t back that up.

At the end of the day, a wide receiver’s job is to get yards, and Quentin Johnston was historically bad at that last year. Since 2021, 32 rookie wide receivers have recorded at least a 10% target share. Of those 32, Johnston’s 0.96 yards per route run ranks 29th. This puts him in the same neighborhood as guys like Rashod Bateman (1.28), Tyquan Thorton (0.87), and Jonathan Mingo (0.81). The lone saving grace here is Nico Collins, who finished his rookie season with 1.26 yards per route run. Collins turned out to be a solid receiver, but he’s the exception to the rule and was still better than Johnston as a rookie.

Some receivers can blame their surroundings for their poor production, but not Quentin Johnston. Justin Herbert is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, so the wide receiver had plenty of opportunities to catch accurate passes. Additionally, with Williams sidelined, Johnston had enough playing time to put up strong numbers, but couldn’t get the job done.

Ultimately, this comes down to a lack of talent. Of those same 32 rookie receivers, Quentin Johnston ranked 29th in PFF grade, ahead of only Thornton, Mingo, and Trey Palmer. Perhaps the TCU product can be the exception to the rule, but betting on outliers is a great way to go broke. For the sake of Chargers fans everywhere, Joe Hortiz better be lying.

Main Photo: Orlando Ramirez – USA Today Sports


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