Chargers: Savvy route runner Johnson signs on
The San Diego Chargers lost a relatively productive receiver when Eddie Royal signed with the Chicago Bears, but they may have found an upgrade with his replacement, ex-San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson. Johnson is one of the most unique route runners in the game, as discussed by Sam Monson in the Analysis Notebook here and here.
Johnson was traded to the 49ers prior to the 2014 season, yet the team seemed unsure how to use him. He played just 305 snaps all season as he shared the number three receiver role with Brandon Lloyd. However, despite the low snap count, Johnson still excelled in his role finishing the season with a +6.6 receiving grade. That was the 17th best receiving grade posted in 2014, and every player above Johnson saw at least double his playing time.
As a group, the San Diego Chargers receivers failed to star in 2014, struggling to truly kick on from the year before. Keenan Allen in particular appeared to suffer a sophomore slump, having looked like one of the best young receivers in the league as a rookie. In 2013 Allen finished 13th among wide receivers with 2.06 Yards Per Route Run (YPRR), however in 2014, none of the teams featured wide receivers (Allen, Royal and Malcom Floyd) exceeded 1.60 YPRR. Johnson on the other hand ranked 16th with 2.13 YPRR.
Teaming up with Philip Rivers pairs Johnson with the best quarterback he has ever had. So long as Johnson and Rivers are quick to get on the same page, Johnson’s unique and weird route running should become a strength for the Chargers.