San Diego Chargers wide receiver Stevie Johnson has a chance to reclaim elite status, as he suddenly becomes the team’s lone playmaker after Keenan Allen sustained a season-ending (lacerated kidney) injury against the Baltimore Ravens last weekend.
No other wide receiver currently on the roster has Johnson’s experience at being the No. 1 receiver, as the role comes with plenty of attention. Often, you’re pitted against the opposing team’s best coverage cornerback each week.
Johnson has the temperament to run his pass routes correctly and understand this will open the underneath for the other receivers to make plays. Plus, he can communicate with quarterback Philip Rivers on which pass routes work best against certain defensive schemes. This attribute alone should help Johnson to get on the same page with Rivers more quickly.
Let’s not forget that between 2010-12, he caught 237 passes for 3123 yards and 23 touchdowns, which elevated the Buffalo Bills passing offense to be one of the league’s best during that time. The remainder of the regular season should be an excellent test to see if Johnson still has the skill-set to put consistent offensive numbers up against the NFL’s best secondaries.
Don’t focus on the physical tangibles that makeup a lead receiver, as the best athletic specimens aren’t always the ideal target downfield. Running a deep “go” pattern isn’t simply about firing off the line of scrimmage and running as fast as you can. You need more of a skill-set to beat a quality defender downfield. Elite receivers can read coverage, run quality pass routes and thoroughly understands the passing concepts of their offense.
No one is suggesting that Johnson is a deep-threat, but the combination of decent speed, great route-running ability and surprising strength allows him to create enough separation downfield to be a very dangerous option for a quarterback. Charger fans hope that a hamstring injury that has hampered Johnson all season long hasn’t sapped him of his quickness, which could prevent him from having the ability to run past defenders.
The time is right for Johnson to show that his lack of production in the past has more to do with poor quarterback play than having a diminishing skill level. Johnson is a proven 1000-yard receiver who can make all the plays necessary to win games moving forward, but the key to succes is for him to gain the trust of Rivers and have him throw more passes his directions even if it wasn’t the best option on the field at that time.
Johnson is a great slot receiver that has No. 1 wideout experience, isn’t that why the Chargers signed him last offseason.
We’ll find out Monday night at the Q.