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Training Camp Position Battles: Will the Chargers lean into their speed?

Plenty of wideouts will fight for snaps in year one under Brandon Staley.

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Over the past few seasons, the Chargers’ wide receiver room has been Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and then everyone else. Within the past two drafts, the Chargers have attempted to find that solidified third wheel to their wideout group by drafting Joe Reed and K.J. Hill last year and then adding one more body in Josh Palmer during this year’s event.

The two receivers the team drafted in 2020 are all of a sudden heading towards “afterthought” territory after two completely separate wideouts — Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson — broke out for the team. Since Palmer is a rookie, we can’t jump to any conclusions, but the chances of him making an early impact are fairly good since he seems to be a much more complete receiver compared to Reed and Hill who both came into the league with questions about their readiness out of the gate.

After the surprising performances by both Guyton and Johnson this past season, will the Chargers look to increase their roles and utilize their sub-4.4 speed even more or will they attempt to keep their top trio as well-rounded as possible by utilizing Palmer, who has the capabilities to win at all three levels? This is where I think the wide receiver rotation will get interesting.

Palmer was selected with one of the team’s two third-round picks. That’s a decent price to pay for a player you don’t intend to use in their first season. There’s also the idea that Mike Williams potentially leaving next season helped spur the decision. So if the team needs to prepare for life after Mike Will, you’d think they’d want to get Palmer out there as much as possible.

No matter which way you put it, Brandon Staley and Joe Lombardi are going to have to decide how they want the receiver rotation to look. I don’t see the team running a ton of 10 personnel (four wide receivers) so there’s only so many snaps to go around. Will they opt to keep some semblance of a deep threat on the field most of the time or will they choose to keep bodies fresh?

My take: I think the Bolts inevitably decide to lean into their outside speed in favor of breaking off more chunk plays each week, similar to what we all saw under Shane Steichen in 2020. Aside from Tyrod’s lone start of the season and the goose egg laid against the Patriots, the Chargers offense was explosive. After Justin Herbert settled into the offense against the Bucs — they scored 31 that game — the Bolts went on to score at least 26 points in seven other games. In a recent press conference with Jared Cook, the veteran noted that a winning team in the NFL needs to score roughly 26-27 points each week.

With a better offensive line and much better coaches on the side line, there’s no reason not to think this offense won’t be more of the same, which means there needs to be speed on the field. As good as I think Palmer will eventually be for this team, I think he’ll take a backseat to the Chargers’ speedsters during his rookie season. Both Guyton and T-Billy have shown the propensity for the big play and you don’t just shelve that for no real reason. Staley will see what they did for the team in a down year and only salivate at the thought of their impact in a year where a whole lot of good is expected to click for this club.

Now I’m going to throw this over to all of you. How do you feel this receiver room will shake out? Will Palmer get the nod at WR3 in his first season or will the team go right back to Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson? Will they prefer one speedster to the other? I want to hear your thoughts!