Chargers 2016 positional grades: Wide Receiver
By Travis Wakeman
Its time for my latest installment of positional grades for the prior season for the Chargers, as I will look at the wide receiver position. After grading each receiver on the team based on their performance this past season, I will give the position an overall grade.
The Chargers had a slew of injuries this past season, but the wide receiver corps was hit as hard as any position.
Stevie Johnson was lost for the season during training camp and Keenan Allen was lost for the year in the first half of the season opener, forcing the Chargers to go most of the year without two of their top three targets in the passing game.
Still, Philip Rivers managed to get good production out of what he had to work with. Let’s take a look at how they graded out.
Many fans were excited about what Tyrell Williams could do coming into this season, and he contributed in a big way. In fact, he became Rivers’ No. 1 target in the passing game.
Williams finished the season with 69 receptions for 1,054 yards and seven touchdowns. However, he did have some costly drops and was targeted 120 times, meaning he caught just a little more than half the passes that were thrown to him.
At the same time, he had 19 catches go for 20 yards or more and 48 catches that resulted in a first down. For an undrafted player in just his second season, he played quite well.
Travis Benjamin wasn’t terrible, but I know I expected a little more out of him this season after the Chargers wasted no time to sign him once the free-agent signing period began.
He caught just 47 passes on the year and had four touchdowns. He lost two fumbles, including one in a game against the New Orleans Saints that pretty much cost the Chargers that game.
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He didn’t contribute much as a return man either, probably because the didn’t want to risk him taking unnecessary hits, but that was a mistake as well, as Benjamin can be explosive returning kicks and punts.
If Benjamin was a disappointment, Dontrelle Inman was a pleasant surprise.
After catching just 47 passes in his first two seasons combined, Inman was second on the team with 58 receptions in 2016. He also had 810 yards receiving and four touchdown catches. He was targeted 94 times in the passing game, meaning he caught about 62 percent of the passes thrown toward him.
Had Allen and Johnson been healthy, Inman likely wouldn’t have seen the field all too often, but he sure made the most of his opportunity.
Griff Whalen was a receiver the team signed off the street after the injuries to Johnson and Allen, but he was never much of a factor.
Whalen, who spent time with the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins prior to coming to San Diego, caught two passes for 22 yards. He was released in November, which is telling, considering the team had so many injuries.
Perhaps the most excruciating sight of the entire 2016 NFL season was seeing Allen carted off the field at Arrowhead Stadium after tearing his ACL, tears in his eyes. After missing half of the 2015 season, this injury was especially tough for fans to digest.
Allen was off to a great start too, catching six passes for 63 yards in the first half. He probably would have had a 100-catch season, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Let’s all hope Allen makes a full recovery and plays in all 16 games next season.
Grade: I (Incomplete)
Overall Grade: C
Williams and Inman both gave the team solid seasons, but there were just too many injuries to overcome. Look for the Chargers to address the wide receiver position early in the upcoming NFL draft in an attempt to spark the passing game.