Los Angeles Chargers WR3 Training Camp Battle
Ah, the smell of football is in the air. With the start of training camp last week, football is finally back and I couldn’t be more excited. I have spent an unhealthy amount of time scrolling Twitter in hopes of finding small clips of practice footage for each team and just have been engulfed in all of the football content as possible, just like a lot of you.
Training camp marks the beginning of a new season. There’s a sense of optimism around each team and there’s hope that this season will be better than the previous one. It truly is a great time of the year but for the players, it is an extremely stressful time. Many of the players in camp are competing for jobs and spots on the 53-man roster. While football is a game and the players that are competing with each other are friends and brothers, at the end of the day, jobs are on the line and these players want to make the team so they can continue to support their families. Throughout the league, there are position battles taking place that are going to go down to the wire as the players competing in the battle are all relatively at the same skill level.
One position battle that I am keeping an eye on is the battle for the Chargers’ third receiver spot. Los Angeles has two established receivers at the top of the depth chart in All-Pro Keenan Allen and former top-10 pick Mike Williams, but there is a ton of uncertainty behind them. As we head into the second week of camp, this battle is well underway and the winner of the third receiver position for the Chargers is very likely to produce in a big way as the Chargers should be one of the more explosive offenses in the league as Justin Herbert continues to develop. Let’s look at some of the contenders for the Chargers’ No. 3 receiver and their shot at winning the job.
A third-year player out of North Texas, Guyton went undrafted in 2019 and eventually signed as a UDFA with the Dallas Cowboys. He was unable to stick with Dallas but eventually found his way to the Chargers where he was able to make the roster. In his second season, Guyton found his way into the receiver rotation and made the most of his opportunities. Last season, Guyton caught 28 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns. He flashed very good speed and ball skills down the field and was the team’s vertical field stretcher they needed to complement Allen and Williams’ skill sets. Of Guyton’s 28 receptions, 11 of them were more than 20 yards down the field. Guyton’s explosiveness and big-play potential should give him a great shot at the No. 3 role, but he must focus on fixing his inconsistent hands (six drops in 2020) if he is to be trusted as a full-time player in 11-personnel.
The early star of Chargers training camp thus far, Johnson is ready to stake his claim as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Like Guyton, Johnson is also a third-year player who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2019. After bouncing around a few practice squads, Johnson found his home in L.A. late in the 2019 season and made the team in 2020 after having a huge training camp. Johnson was used as a situational deep threat in 2020 but he made the most of his limited reps. Johnson brought in 20 receptions for 398 yards and three touchdowns. His 19.9 yards per reception ranked near the top of the league and four of his first five receptions went for more than 50 yards. Johnson has legit speed to threaten vertically and stretch the field which is perfect for Herbert—who we all know has a huge arm and likes to go deep. Johnson also proved to have very good hands and ball skills as he didn’t have a single drop in 2020 and displayed an ability to go up and highpoint the football. With each passing practice, new footage of Johnson torching defensive backs pops up. The way things are trending, Johnson could very well be in the driver's seat in this battle.
The only player that the Chargers drafted on this list, Palmer has the innate advantage of the team investing capital in him. Palmer was the team’s third-round pick this year and is a player that the coaching staff and front office think very highly of. Palmer is a bit of a different player than both Johnson and Guyton in that, while he is very good down the field, he also is a terrific route-runner who plays with pro polish. He can win at all three levels of the field and is extremely competitive after catching, having above-average size and strength. Palmer is undoubtedly the most complete of the bunch, but he does lack that explosive game-breaking speed that both Johnson and Guyton offer. With the team having spent a high draft pick on Palmer, it is very hard to imagine him being on the bench for long. Even if he doesn’t win this job in camp, by the end of the year I’d be willing to bet that when the Chargers are in 11-personnel, the three receivers on the field will be Allen, Williams, and Palmer.