Los Angeles Chargers Position Review: Wide Receiver
During the offseason, I felt many people had high hopes for this wide receiver group. You obviously had the stud Keenan Allen returning, along with the talented/high potential receiver in Mike Williams. They drafted rookie Josh Palmer in the 3rd round the past draft. At the time, we believed to have Tyron Johnson who so many of us were high on. Unfortunately, that did not work out and the wide receiver room was rounded out at the time with Jalen Guyton and K.J. Hill.
I was pretty excited generally speaking for this wide receiver group, as I know many were. However, we all know that things do not always go as planned, whether that is for better or worse. With that being said, let’s get into my thoughts on how the Los Angeles Chargers wide receivers performed during the 2021-2022 season. As I did with my previous article I will list 2 pros and 2 cons to portray my thoughts.
Pro 1: Production
We all know the saying, “Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t.” No matter what way you look at it, this receiver group produced stats. Part of that is the way the offense is set up and the excellence of Justin Herbert. However, these players still need to catch the ball and play well, which statistically wise, they did. If you are only talking about wide receivers, only three teams had two receivers both over 1,000 yards. The Chargers were one of them with Williams having 1,146 yards and Allen with 1,138. The two of them also combined with 182 receptions, which is the most between 2 receivers on the same team except for Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson, Kupp’s 145 receptions definitely helped that though.
Herbert was one of the two quarterbacks in the NFL to eclipse 5,000 yards. Despite Williams and Allen combining for 2,284 yards, there was still a lot more to go around. Rookie Palmer started off his rookie year a bit slower as most rookies do, but started to come to life by the end of the season. In his last 5 games, he averaged 3.6 receptions, 37 yards, and 0.6 touchdowns. Obviously, those aren’t life-changing numbers by any means, but he really looked like someone that can develop into a legit player for this team. In the final game of the season, the Chargers were down 15 with less than 5 minutes left facing a 4th and 21 needing a touchdown to stay in the game. Herbert scanned the field and threw a dart in-between multiple Raider players, only for Palmer to come down with it to keep their post-season hopes alive.
Pro 2: Mis-Match Nightmares
This offense was very diverse, it had four reliable pass catchers, one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL, and two pretty solid pass-catching tight ends. The offense runs through the receivers, they are the ones that are able to set up everyone else. They are diverse, Keenan and Williams are the two best on the team but they are so different in their playing styles. There were not many games when both of them were having their best game, but it always seemed like one of them was on. It is a pick your poison offense, you have to give extra attention to at least one of them, a lot of the time both. When this happens, it opens everything up.
You have Keenan as the route runner/technician type of receiver while Williams is that big play/jump ball guy, who also added a lot of intermediate routes to his game this year. With these different skill sets, it is difficult for a defense to form a game plan that is able to stop both of them. If a team attempts to stop both, it opens everything up and is when the offense can be at its best. To understand where I am coming from; just look at the week 4 game between the Chargers and the Raiders. The Raiders used all their resources to stop both of them, and they did with them finishing with a combined 47 yards and no touchdowns. In that game, Herbert threw three touchdowns to three different players. The Chargers won that game 28-14. Even when the receivers are shut down, it opens the entire offense up.
Con 1: Lack Of Speed/Playmaking Ability
I think most people are going to be able to guess what the two cons are. The first I am going to discuss is speed or the lack thereof. I love these receivers and think they have an immense amount of value and can do great things. However, it drives me crazy that our two best receivers would be the slowest receiver on many NFL teams. I’m not even asking for someone with Tyreek Hill speed or anything. While that would be great, they don’t need it. They cannot rely on Guyton to be that speed/deep threat to take the top off the defense. He is too sporadic in how he plays to where they can’t depend on him to be that guy.
Along with speed is playmaking ability. I watch players like Ja’Marr Chase that were not known for their speed coming out of college, but he is a phenomenal playmaker. His burst and quickness in short areas are incredible and something the team desperately needs. The only player on this roster that is even close is Austin Ekeler, who isn’t even one of their receivers. The team can’t run productive wide receiver screens because no receiver on this team is great after the catch. That was a big missing piece that I wish that team addressed going into the season.
Con 3: Catching The Football
It’s revolutionary, isn’t it? Asking for a receiver to catch a ball should be something that isn’t rocket science. For some reason, this team decided to be the worst in the NFL and lead the league in drops. I got frustrated listening to people constantly say it was because of bad timing and Herbert throwing the ball too hard. My favorite quote of the season (paraphrasing) was when Keenan was asked about how hard Herbert throws and he said to get on the jugs machine if anyone thinks he throws too hard. He then proceeded to say to give him the ball in some colorful language.
There is no excuse for it, these are NFL players and the best in the world that they do. Too many drives were killed, touchdowns were lost, and games were drastically changed because these players couldn’t do what should be their easiest job. Two of Herbert’s interceptions were the result of drops, and then subsequently returned for touchdowns. This was the more frustrating part of the season because if they were even league average, who knows if a game changes and they get in the playoffs.
Final Position Grade: B-
While the pros are great, the cons are what held this unit back from being great. Keenan was great this year but wasn’t as reliable consistently as he usually is. I believe it was a fluke from a couple of games and I’m not worried. Herbert reminds me a lot of Philip Rivers to where it doesn’t matter who the receiver is, he is going to make it work. So while the numbers are great, Herbert led a lot of it. Williams had a career year and he definitely stepped his game up. Many times he seemed to completely disappear from the game plan which was a concern. All in all, I would say that the positives are far better than the negatives based on a pure talent standpoint. They were a little bit lower than I was hoping for heading into the season. But I am not upset with the final results.