For the Los Angeles Chargers, a team that projects to be pass-heavy with young starting quarterback Justin Herbert, it makes sense to have a strong receiving corps. Well, they’ve got Keenan Allen and Mike Williams locked in as their No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers, respectively, but who their No. 3 was felt uncertain up to this point. Enter wide receiver Josh Palmer, the Chargers’ third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
After a solid, yet still under-the-radar rookie season, Palmer looks poised to take over Los Angeles’ WR3 spot in year two.
Palmer always had the potential of being a flashy player dating back to his time at Tennessee. He consistently showed off his strong ball skills there, doing well in contested-catch situations and working the sideline when the Volunteers used him as a vertical target.
The only problem was Tennessee’s lack of strong quarterback talent and excess of receiver talent when Palmer was there. Palmer couldn’t show off all of his big-play ability and route-running skills when the quarterbacks couldn’t get him the ball and while he was stuck behind Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings on the depth chart. At the same time, all of the poor throws from his quarterbacks meant Palmer did get to show off his great hands.
Still, he didn’t enter the draft as a top receiver prospect, so expectations weren’t as high for him as they were for, say, Ja’Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle. When the Chargers drafted Palmer in the third round last year, it was a bit of a surprise. The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia even gave Los Angeles a “C” grade for the selection, calling it “a bit of a reach” and citing Palmer’s inability to put together all of his skills at the collegiate level.
Most of Palmer’s rookie season was quiet and without much production. In his first 12 games, the most catches Palmer had in a single game were three, and the most yards he’d put up in a week were 25. For the most part, his contributions on special teams—at least in terms of percentages of snaps—were about even with his offensive contributions in those first 12 games.
It was in Palmer’s last five games that things really started to turn around for him. He got the first real start of his career against the New York Giants in Week 14 and took full advantage of the opportunity given to him. Palmer got seven targets and caught five of them for 66 yards and a touchdown, the second score of his rookie season. Over the next four games, the rookie hauled in 13 more catches for 119 yards and two more touchdowns. The Chargers’ 2021 season ended with Palmer tied for fourth on the team in receiving touchdowns, sixth in receiving yards, and fifth in receptions.
So far this preseason, the second-year receiver is off to a great start in locking down his role as the Chargers’ WR3. In Saturday night’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, Palmer recorded 75 yards and a touchdown on three catches, all the while looking dominant against Dallas’ secondary.
Josh Palmer showcasing his ball skills. What a catch pic.twitter.com/y1KALlzovx
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) August 21, 2022
That 41-yard reception over Cowboys cornerback Nick Wright showed off all of the skills that brought him success in college: great ball skills to track the pass all the way past the defender and sure hands to pull in the pass even in a contested-catch situation. Creating separation is definitely something Palmer will still need to work on, but outside of the lack of space, he did everything right on that catch.
We also got to see a little bit of the second-year’s run-after-catch ability against the Cowboys as well. Palmer took this screen pass to the end zone after catching it five yards behind the line of scrimmage at the Cowboys’ 25. He’s got good field vision and speed that he takes advantage of by cutting through the opening holes in the defense in front of him and is rewarded with a touchdown.
Joshua Palmer takes the screen all the way into the end zone 😤 @Flowercitysown
📺: #DALvsLAC on @NFLNetwork (check local listings)
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/mnJpjKDBN0 pic.twitter.com/GdGou76oa7
— NFL (@NFL) August 21, 2022
Palmer has put himself in a great position to be the Chargers’ WR3 this year, his second season, after a solid finish to his rookie season and a strong preseason showing thus far. With more playing time in year two—and likely improvements in his route-running and separation creation with better coaching than at Tennessee—Palmer could not only stick as the team’s No. 3 receiver but also see his production skyrocket in his sophomore campaign.
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