Chargers receivers, too much work?
The Chargers put a heavy physical load on their wide receivers.
Perhaps they should pull back a tad this season. Here’s how: run the ball better and line up two tight ends more often.
The dividend could be better durability for the receivers, not a strength of San Diego’s wideout units in recent years.
The Chargers rely heavily on three-receiver formations and, like most NFL offenses, skew toward the pass.
Both approaches bear fruit, but the wideouts take the brunt of the workload. Hey, someone has to pay a steeper price for all the offense the NFL craves and fosters, and in San Diego’s offense, it’s the receivers.
This may be the year that Keenan Allen, 24, makes his first Pro Bowl. The talent is there. So is the experience.
Allen’s strength and stamina offer big advantages, but injuries have cut short both seasons since his stellar rookie year.
Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal, the other top-3 wide receivers of the Mike McCoy Era, sustained an assortment of injuries. They persevered, but their performances waned deeper in seasons.
De facto receiver Ladarius Green also provided diminishing returns, losing health and steam under an increased workload last season.
Newcomer Travis Benjamin’s speed is an exciting addition to this offense, plus the punt return unit. Ideally, the Chargers won’t overly burden the 175-pounder, who had reconstructive knee surgery two-plus years ago.
The Chargers became very pass-happy last year, attempting passes on 64.7-percent of snaps in part because their ground game stunk and they were forced to play a lot of catch-up.
Yes, New England went to the playoffs throwing 65 percent of the time, but the Pats were more apt to use double tight end sets (Bill Belichick loves them.)
Ken Whisenhunt, the Bolt playcaller who returned this past offseason, no doubt would like to get more power into the offense. Under Whisenhunt, a former tight end, the 2013 offense threw on 53.3 percent of its plays.
Chargers receivers don’t have it bad. Nor do any NFL wideout units compared to those of previous eras, when defenders were allowed to clothesline receivers or press them up the field.
It’s safer for them than when Lance Alworth and John Jefferson were catching passes over the middle.
The college game, gorging on the pass, is supplying increasing numbers of receivers who can supply depth to NFL teams. Undrafted sophomore Tyrell Williams, for instance, could emerge as a Chargers contributor this year. Several other young receivers will get long looks in training camp and the preseason.
If the knee injury Stevie Johnson sustained Sunday sidelines Johnson for an extended period, Williams could see a bigger role because Allen may be needed in the slot, Johnson’s No. 1 spot. Javontee Herndon, who was sidelined Sunday, has the shiftiness that can play up in the slot if the tricky mental nuances are mastered.
Preparing the wideouts, McCoy runs them hard but not as hard as Norv Turner did in practices because Turner emphasized a more vertical offense.
McCoy’s preference for a no-huddle offense, though, can require the receivers to stay on the field for longer stretches.
“They understand they’re paid to run,” McCoy said Sunday. “As you learn along and you play in the game, you learn how to take care of your body.”
The Bolts hope to strike a happy medium: leverage the talents of Philip Rivers and the Allen-led wideouts but get plenty of help from other skill players, too.