The Los Angeles Chargers’ 2023 NFL draft pick, Quentin Johnston, hasn’t lived up to the high expectations as a first-round selection. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore expressed disappointment in Johnston’s performance, citing the lack of desired results and opportunities. A closer look reveals that Johnston’s struggles may stem from how he’s being used, particularly concerning his ability to create separation.
- Quentin Johnston, the Chargers’ first-round pick, has failed to meet high expectations.
- Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore expressed disappointment in Johnston’s limited opportunities and results.
- Johnston’s struggles may be due to his inability to create separation, a vital skill for a YAC threat.
Ever since the Los Angeles Chargers selected Quentin Johnston as the 21st overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, fans and analysts alike had high hopes for the young wide receiver. However, his performance on the field has fallen short of the expectations that typically accompany a first-round selection.
The situation took an unfortunate turn when star receiver Mike Williams suffered an ACL injury in Week 3, leading to expectations of Johnston getting more playing time and opportunities to shine. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore acknowledged this, but the outcomes didn’t match the team’s aspirations.
In an interview with Daniel Popper of The Athletic, Moore expressed his frustration: “Those opportunities have not yielded the type of results that Moore, HC Brandon Staley, and Justin Herbert want.” Despite playing a career-high 35 snaps in the loss against the Cowboys, Johnston was targeted only five times by Herbert, indicating a lack of trust or chemistry between the quarterback and the young receiver.
Johnston has not been a focal point of the offense over the past two weeks. Allen and Palmer are the top two options, and the vast majority of play designs are feeding targets to them. Herbert also, naturally, has more trust and rapport with both Allen and Palmer.
To delve deeper into Johnston’s struggles, Daniel Popper examined the reasons behind his underwhelming performance. It appears that Johnston’s issues are closely related to how he’s being used within the offensive scheme.
The Chargers are utilizing Johnston mostly as a deep-field threat. This part is curious. Because on the night the Chargers drafted Johnston in April, both Staley and general manager Tom Telesco specifically mentioned Johnston’s yards-after-catch ability as a motivating factor in the pick. And yet through six weeks, 38.7 percent of Johnston’s 81 routes have been either go routes or posts, according to TruMedia.
While it’s no secret that Justin Herbert has established trust with star receivers like Keenan Allen and Joshua Palmer, Johnston’s underutilization is somewhat perplexing. What sets a receiver apart is their ability to create separation, making them an easy target for the quarterback. This skill is particularly crucial for a yards-after-catch (YAC) threat like Johnston, as separation allows them to turn short gains into substantial yardage.
The challenge Johnston faces is that he’s still a rookie, and acquiring the kind of separation necessary typically takes time and experience. If he hopes to contribute as a WR3 in the Chargers’ offense, he’ll need to improve his fundamentals swiftly.
Johnston does not create separation consistently. He is still early in the process of his development as a route-runner — both in terms of the variety of routes he is capable of running and the quality of the routes he runs.
As the Chargers prepare for a pivotal matchup against division rival Kansas City Chiefs, it becomes increasingly important for Johnston to adapt and elevate his performance. While the road to success may be challenging, the young receiver has the potential to become a valuable asset for the team if he can refine his skills and establish trust with Justin Herbert.
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