The departure of slot receiver Eddie Royal will not place a dent in Philip Rivers‘ offensive attack. Royal, who had 778 yards on 62 receptions for San Diego last season, signed a three-year contract with the Bears on March 11.
Replacing Royal is the veteran wideout Steven Johnson. Johnson, who spent seven years in the NFL between Buffalo and San Francisco, is looking to bounce back from a sub-par season as a 49er. The Bay Area native had averaged close to 1,000 yards a season with the Bills, yet racked up a mere 435 yards on 35 receptions with San Francisco. The San Diego Chargers signed him to a three-year contract less than a week after Royal’s signing with Chicago.
The loss of fourth-year receiver Seyi Ajirotutu to free agency is offset by the signings of former Raven Jacoby Jones and former Ram Austin Pettis. Although both Jones and Pettis have found significantly more success as kick-return specialists, they will be expected to also play a role in the Chargers’ passing game this season. Their speed will be an asset in beating man-on-man coverage.
Legendary tight end Antonio Gates will not be as big of a factor in the 2015 campaign. After serving a four-game, PED-related suspension at the beginning of the season, the aging Gates will play more of a situational role on the Chargers’ offense. The regular tight end role will be turned over to Ladarius Green, who last year showed the ability to run effective routes and make difficult catches in traffic.
The Chargers’ two top receivers have not changed since last year – veterans Malcolm Floyd and Keenan Allen will hold the No. 1 and No. 2 WR slots, respectively. Johnson will fill the void left by Royal in the slot, while Green will be the regular TE. Halfbacks Branden Oliver, Melvin Gordon, and Danny Woodhead will also be a part of the pass-attack, and will certainly see a number of backfield screen passes as well. Gates will join Jones, Pettis, and second-year wideout Dontrelle Inman as the team’s situational receivers.
Quarterback Philip Rivers, one of the elite short-range passers in the NFL, will be looking to maximize his short-pass opportunities. In 2014, his tremendous short-pass accuracy yielded top-notch results. In nearly 340 pass attempts under 10 yards last year, Rivers threw for over 2,000 yards with only three interceptions. He completed 78% of these passes, and boasted a QB rating of 101.35. Furthermore, increasing Rivers’ short passes would minimize the need for deep throws – one of his demonstrated weaknesses.
A consistent attack of short passes is therefore essential to defeating opposing defenses.
In prime form, Johnson, Green, Jones, Inman, and Pettis will provide the Bolts with valuable versatility. Their demonstrated speed and route-running experience will be a perfect complement to Rivers. A combination of slant, screen, and curl routes – plus an occasional deep ball – should provide Rivers with an arsenal of effective pass plays. Coupled with a strong ground assault from Gordon, Oliver, and Woodhead, this should make for a very dangerous Charger offense in 2015.