SAN DIEGO-When Stevie Johnson made his way to the West Coast earlier this year to sign a three-year contract with the San Diego Chargers, he brought along with him a hefty dose of speed-blur and a playmaking reputation with him.
Last year’s pit stop in San Francisco, in which he failed to touch the 1,000 yards receiving benchmark for the second straight season, has to be viewed as a hiccup for the veteran wide receiver. That’s because Johnson is simply a scary man with the football in his hands. He didn’t go over the 1,000 yards in receiving mark for three consecutive seasons with the Buffalo Bills because of his good looks.
Johnson is an endzone celebration waiting to happen every time he makes a pass reception. With the Bills, Johnson became one of the more lethal wideouts in the NFL. In signing Johnson, the Chargers have to believe that hasn’t changed.
With Eddie Royal departing during the offseason to Chicago, the Chargers needed to inject some more speed into their wide receiving corps. Johnson gives the Bolts that bit of electricity they need. Saturday night against the Seattle Seahawks, Johnson showed off what could be an exciting 2015 campaign for him and the Chargers.
In the Chargers’ third preseason game, played at Qualcomm Stadium, Johnson went toe-to-toe with the vaunted Seahawks’ defense and came away looking pretty impressive.
Yes, it is just the preseason, but Johnson’s presence to the starting lineup will only serve to make the Chargers’ offense that ranked 10th in passing in 2014, even more potent. No, the numbers weren’t off the charts (4 catches, 63 yards), but Johnson, in a short stint, gave Chargers fans enough to see that this cat might be a special ingredient to San Diego’s quest to win the AFC West and make a deep run into the postseason.
The Chargers lost the ballgame, 16-15, when the Seahawks managed to get a 60-yard field to go their way with seconds remaining in the game. But the preseason is not about wins or losses; it’s an evaluation process for players and coaches. A team can come out like gangbusters in the preseason, but do squat once the regular season rolls around. It means nothing.
However, what the preseason does do is provide coaches with a good barometer of what a player can or can’t do, and what their teams are capable of executing. Against the Seahawks, Johnson looked like the same Johnson, who is known to drop dimes and give change later to defenders. As far as getting comfortable with Chargers’ offensive scheme with one preseason game left before the regular season begins, Johnson is taking it one step at a time.
“I feel like it is day by day,” Johnson said after the game. I am learning every day. I am not there yet, like the other guys, but I don’t feel bad about my progress right now. It is just day-to-day effort and going out and working as if yesterday you didn’t do well.”
The Chargers didn’t have one wide receiver or pass catcher to hit 1,000 yards in receiving last season. Johnson is capable of changing that. But he and quarterback Philip Rivers are going to have to be in sync with one another to make that happen. Right now, Rivers and Johnson are playing the game of adapting to each other.
” So far, so good,” Johnson said. “We have just got to keep going back to practice and working. That’s all there is to it. Just keep working.”