Training camp began Saturday, and on Sunday the first scare of the season already showed its ugly face. After a diving catch, WR Stevie Johnson had trouble staying upright on his knee and fell to the ground, grabbing at his very important joint.
Anyone who watches or knows the game of football will tell you, knee injuries can end your season. The news came Monday that Johnson tore his meniscus and that he would undergo surgery to repair it. Although his season being over isn’t decided quite yet, there is no doubt he will miss some important time.
The big question is, who fills the role that is now wide open? The Chargers already have an idea. After the injury, second-year receiver Tyrell Williams took snaps with the first team.
Chargers WR Tyrell Williams working with first-team offense. Much better route runner in year 2, also a capable gunner. Should make team.
— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) July 31, 2016
Coming into Year 2 with the Chargers, Williams has arguably made a bigger jump than any UDFA from 2015. Before the Johnson injury, Williams had already made his way from the practice squad to the second-team offense as well as the gunner position alongside Special Teams captain Darrell Stuckey. Last season when his number was called against Denver, Williams came through big time with an 80-yard touchdown reception that kept the Chargers in it until the bitter end.
One of the talks of the offseason was how the 6-foot-4, 205-pound wide receiver polished his route-running. Being surrounded by Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson his first year has no doubt helped him develop his release and overall route-running skills, as the two wideouts are known around the league for their cunning route-running and release abilities.
Aug 29, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams (6) is defended by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (83) at Qualcomm Stadium. Seattle won 16-15. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Physically, Williams has everything he needs to be the next man up in an offense that truly needs a big target to complement Travis Benjamin’s and Allen’s own talents. He trains constantly against the likes of Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward, giving him a much better chance of competing with high-end corners around the league. Let us not overlook that he spent his entire rookie season learning from one of the best UDFA wide receivers the Chargers have ever seen in Malcom Floyd, who took Williams under his wing on and off the field last year.
Williams was poised to make some noise this season, but with Johnson down, he may have a chance to make a name for himself on the starting offense. Look for Philip Rivers to throw deep downfield to Williams for big plays, the same way he used to when he threw to the likes of Vincent Jackson and Floyd.