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Joshua Palmer Chargers
NFL

Joshua Palmer Growing Into Major Chargers Contributor

  • Jack McKessy
  • November 23, 2022
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Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer is by no means one of his team’s most well-known players. Yet, so far in his second season in LA, Palmer is starting to come into his own as one of the Chargers’ most reliable offensive weapons and a top target for quarterback Justin Herbert.

Palmer was just about the definition of “flying under the radar” as a third-round rookie last season. He played in all 17 games but saw just a fraction of the targets that top receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams did. Even in the five games he ended up starting in the latter half of the 2021 season, Palmer averaged just four targets per game.

By the end of his rookie year, Palmer was nothing more than a depth piece in the passing game behind receivers Allen, Williams, and Jalen Guyton as well as tight end Jared Cook and even running back Austin Ekeler. While each of those guys had at least 440 receiving yards, Palmer finished his rookie season with 353 receiving yards (sixth on the team) and four touchdowns (fourth) despite being the only one of that group to play in all 17 games.

Flash forward to this year and Palmer has turned into a real and consistent contributor within the Chargers’ offense. When Allen (hamstring) and Guyton (ACL tear) went down with a couple of significant injuries early in the year, the second-year receiver had to step up and become a bigger part of Los Angeles’ passing game.

Indeed, Palmer started all but one of the Chargers’ first eight games and got more of the target share as the season went on. In the seven games Palmer started without Allen on the field, he averaged nearly eight targets per game, twice as many as he saw in his starts just last year. When he got those extra targets, he started to prove why he deserved them all along with a 99-yard game against the Jaguars in Week 3.

A few weeks later and with both Allen and Williams out, Palmer showed that he can be a top target for Herbert when called upon, putting up his first game with 100-plus receiving yards in a 106-yard performance against the Falcons in Week 9. His big game in Atlanta also included a huge gain late to set up the game-winning field goal for the Chargers.

Palmer’s consistently impressive play over the first 10 weeks of the season has allowed him to establish himself as a receiver that can thrive in an NFL starting trio. Whether it’s as a role-playing No. 3 receiver behind Allen and Williams, or stepping into a No. 2 or even lead receiver role because of injuries, the Tennessee product is more than just adequate depth.

That’s something that became even more apparent against the Kansas City Chiefs this past Sunday night. With Allen finally returned from his hamstring injury and Williams also (briefly) back on the field, Palmer didn’t get the start for the first time since he was inactive in Week 7 with a concussion. And yet he still proved he had the capacity to take over a game in primetime. Palmer finished the night as the pass-catcher with the most receptions of either team with eight and trailed only Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce with his 106 yards and two touchdown catches.

After the last few weeks and nearly the entirety of his second NFL season, Joshua Palmer looks every bit the part of a starting receiver and even a possible No. 1 option when needed. Given Allen’s history of injuries and age now being on the “wrong” side of 30, that’s exactly the kind of offensive weapon the Chargers could use—and have been using—in their passing game.

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Jack McKessy