In retooled offense, don’t forget about Stevie Johnson


With Ken Whisenhunt back as offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, a new commitment to the running game will be on full display. With Hunter Henry and DEREK Watt now added to the mix, we can expect to see the team line up in run-heavy offensive formations much more often.

But with a talented trio of receivers, Whisenhunt won’t abandon three-wide receiver sets. When Whisenhunt was in San Diego in 2013, Charger running backs churned out 1,873 yards on the ground. Still, the offense had three players—Allen, Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead—who each caught over 70 passes.

Fans will be anticipating the return of Keenan Allen, who set a torrid pace of 67 receptions in eight games last season before an injury cut his season short. The San Diego debut of Travis Benjamin will also be something fans of the Chargers are eager to see. The first free agent signed by the Chargers this offseason, Benjamin was able to make big plays for an offense in Cleveland that was largely inept.

But don’t forget about Stevie Johnson.

In his first year in San Diego last season, Johnson was targeted 65 times in the passing game and caught 45 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns. He did that while appearing in just 10 games.

Health will be a huge key for the Chargers in 2016, for many players. Johnson is no exception to that, and if he is able to play in every game, he could be the benefactor of opposing defenses not giving him enough attention.

With guys like Allen, Benjamin, Gates and Henry on the field, defenses won’t be able to cover everybody on every play. When these defenses pick their poison, Johnson could be found roaming free across the middle of the field. That’s where Philip Rivers likes to hit him. About seven-eight yards down the field, in stride. Johnson was able to gain a first down on 64 percent (29 of 45) of his receptions last year. Rivers could look his way often on third down.

2015 Statistics

Receptions: 45

Receiving Yards: 497

Yards Per Catch: 11.0

Receiving Touchdowns: 3

Of course, we’ll be assuming that Johnson plays in every game this season, but we expect him to expand upon those numbers in a major way. With plenty of attention going to the aforementioned receiving options, Johnson could be productive in a very sneaky way for the Chargers this year.

Projected 2016 Statistics

Receptions: 67

Receiving Yards: 760

Yards Per Catch: 11.3

Receiving Touchdowns: 6

These numbers may be a bit optimistic, but this is an offense that an experienced veteran such as Johnson can thrive in. Expect him to be a big part of the team’s offensive plans this season.