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Chargers HC Brandon Staley: 'Bigger opportunity' awaits WR Quentin Johnston after Mike Williams' injury

Injury issues within the Los Angeles Chargers receiving corps are unfortunately nothing novel.

Mike Williams has been lost for the year, just a season after he and running mate Keenan Allen seldom saw the field together.

This time around, though, the Chargers have a rookie first-rounder ready and waiting.

As Williams has gone down, the opportunity is there for rookie Quentin Johnston to step up.

"We believe in the ability of this guy and we believe in the make-up of this guy," Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said Monday of Johnston, via team transcript. "Now, he is going to get a bigger opportunity because there are going to be more opportunities available for him. It's a great chance for him to step up, and for everyone around him, too, as well. This is going to be an important transition for us, offensively."

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Johnston was taken with the 21st pick of the 2023 NFL Draft by the Bolts. Thus far, the TCU product has seen just five receptions on eight targets off of 48 snaps in the Chargers' three games. Staley said Johnston's lack of use has simply been because of the talent in front of him. That obviously will change immediately with Williams' ACL tear sidelining him until 2024.

"It's a sign of the talent at receiver," Staley said. "I mean, you have two $20 million receivers, who are among the top players at their position in the league. Then, you have a guy in Josh [Palmer], who had 75 catches for us last season and who we feel like is one of the top young players in the league.

"We drafted Quentin with the belief in the player. A long-term vision. Now, he's going to get a bigger opportunity. Now, you're going to get to see more of him. All he needs to continue to do is do what he's done ever since he's been here, which is to continue to make progress on the field. Over time, he's going to make more and more plays for us. We're really happy with him and he's going to get to shine in a bigger way now."

Palmer's in his third season and only has eight catches so far in 2023. He figures to get a bigger target share now, though whether he or Johnston emerges as the No. 2 next to Allen remains to be seen.

Palmer is coming off an impressive 2022 campaign. He tallied 72 receptions for 769 yards and three touchdowns. He was second on the Chargers in catches (behind running back Austin Ekeler) and tops among wideouts, as Allen missed seven games due to injury and Williams missed four.

The injury bug has bitten the Bolts yet again, but it would seem reinforcements are already there.

Just how quickly Johnston acclimates himself to a larger role is likely to come into focus Sunday when Los Angeles hosts the Las Vegas Raiders.

It won't just be a chance for Johnston to prove himself, it'll be a pivotal game for the Bolts (1-2).

A talent-rich squad that's fallen short of expectations so far, the Chargers are facing a Raiders squad (1-2) also approaching an early season crossroads.

"Everyone is going to have to elevate their game," Staley said. "We have a lot of good options on our team -- obviously, Quentin, being the first guy that is going to emerge in a bigger role. We have Derius Davis, who has continued to develop. That fifth [WR] spot is to be determined, but we know what we have in Josh and Keenan, those guys were fantastic [Sunday] in the game. You guys all saw what Josh did last year when both Keenan and Mike were down. Everyone is going to have to elevate their game, and it's not just the receiving group, it's going to be that tight end group and running back group, as well. We're going to have to work through those adjustments here during the week to get ready for the Raiders."

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