Palmer, Johnston ready to step up for Chargers after Williams’ season-ending injury

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Joshua Palmer stepped up in the four games veteran wide receiver Mike Williams missed for the Los Angeles Chargers last year.

With Williams out for the season with a torn left ACL, Palmer will be counted on again.

“It’s another chance to go out and show them again that they can trust and believe in me,” Palmer said Wednesday as the Chargers prepared for Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Not all the pressure will be on Palmer. First-round pick Quentin Johnson and fellow rookie Derius Davis, a fourth-round selection, will also see their playing time increase.

The Chargers (1-2) are second in the league in total offense (416.7 yards per game) and third in passing yards (308.7 per game).

“I think you just have to rely on the guys behind him to step up and do their job. Thankfully, we’ve got a ton of reps with them so far,” quarterback Justin Herbert said. “I’m looking forward to seeing those guys compete.”

Palmer was second on the Chargers in receptions last season with 72. In the four games last year that Williams missed with an ankle injury, Palmer averaged nine targets and 5.8 catches.

Palmer came up big in last Sunday’s 28-24 win over Minnesota. He had a 29-yard catch up the left sideline during the second quarter that had only a 19.4% completion probability and then a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score.

After having four catches for 17 yards in the first two games, Palmer had 66 yards on four receptions against the Vikings.

Herbert doesn’t doubt Palmer’s ability. When Palmer was a rookie in 2021, he spent lots of time after practice catching passes from Herbert when the QB wanted to do extra throwing.

“I am not surprised by all of his success,” Herbert said. “You can put him all over the field, a bunch of different positions. He’s done a great job picking up everything that we’ve asked him to do.”

Johnston has been in for only 48 of the Chargers’ 215 offensive plays and has five catches for 26 yards. Johnston admitted that the lack of snaps and the learning curve have been frustrating at times, but he said he is getting more comfortable.

“The only thing that would speed it up was just juggling all the plays and reading the defense,” he said. “Coming in, it was all new to me. But now I’m starting to get everything down.”

The Chargers, of course, have another productive veteran besides Williams. Keenan Allen is healthy and serving as a mentor to everyone. He is coming off a franchise record 18-catch game against the Vikings and leads the league with 32 receptions for 402 yards.

“Every time we break the huddle, I’m probably going to tell them what they got, just so there’s no misunderstanding and they can play faster,” Allen said.

The Chargers will be facing a Raiders defense that is ranked 15th against the pass but is one of two teams that has not forced a turnover.

NOTES: RB Austin Ekeler and LB Eric Kendricks practiced for the first time in two weeks. Both were limited. Ekeler, who has a high right ankle sprain, took part in individual drills and feels like he is getting closer to returning. Kendricks has been dealing with a hamstring injury. … S Derwin James (hamstring), LB Kenneth Murray Jr. (groin), LB Joey Bosa (hamstring/toe), S Alohi Gilman (heel), TE Gerald Everett (illness) and C Corey Linsley (illness) did not practice. LB Khalil Mack was given a rest day.



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