COSTA MESA, Calif. — Monday night was the first game this season that first-round receiver Quentin Johnston didn’t have a catch. He was targeted twice, with one of those being intercepted by Stephon Gilmore at the end of the game.
It could be a frustrating time for a young player trying to build chemistry with the quarterback, trying to showcase why he deserves the ball, and learning to adapt to the NFL.
This current situation is teaching Johnston that patience is a virtue.
“Being patient is just, I feel like all a part of it,” Johnston said. “Like I said, with every with every moment, good or bad or just taking it and learn from it. Keep moving forward.”
Brandon Staley and Kellen Moore have taken the slow approach with the young receiver. They have brought him up slowly, letting him learn as he goes.
He has played in 33% of the snaps this season and has been targeted 13 times, making six catches.
“The targets will come,” Staley said. “There are certainly some games where there will be more than others, but he’s just at the beginning. He just needs to keep putting in the right work on the practice field, and more opportunities will come.”
The targets have been consistent, with Johnston getting 2-3 per game. That number needs a boost, but so does the chemistry between the receiver and quarterback Justin Herbert.
“The stuff we already have been doing, we’ve been slowly building that chemistry,” Johnston said. “We just have to keep on it.”
The former TCU receiver says it is about talking during practice, staying after, and ensuring he is ready for when his number is called.
In week four against the Raiders, he had a great diving 18-yard catch that showed his improvement in holding on to the football.
“Any time that you’re a new player establishing a rapport — and that trust and that chemistry — with your quarterback, it’s such a timing-based relationship,” Staley said. “You’re brand new to the NFL, and you’re brand new with your quarterback. You just need a lot more time on task.”
The offense lost receiver Mike Williams in Minnesota to a torn ACL in week three. Offensively, they have struggled without him.
They haven’t had the same production from the offense in the last two games. They averaged 28.6 points with him and now 20.5 points without him.
It is sink or swim for this offense. They need the production to come from somewhere.
“He’s a special player, and he’s a talented guy,” Herbert said.
On Monday, there were some missed opportunities to get him the ball, but Herbert shouldered the blame for not finding him after the game.
It will take time, and obviously, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore doesn’t want Herbert to force it into Johnston. They need to trust each other and not overthink.
“I feel like the main thing I got out of it was just stay on the course,” Johnston said. “Not getting down on myself about anything. I’m not getting too frustrated. Too worked up about anything. Just staying the course.”
Staley said he isn’t worried about Johnston getting down on himself or letting frustration beat him because he believes in the receiver’s character.
“I still got a lot of confidence in myself,” Johnston said. “So, just keeping my head above water. Keep working.”
In the past, it has taken a while for first-rounders to get going. Running back Melvin Gordon and Williams took a season to start contributing to the offense.
Every player is different.
At 2-3, the Chargers don’t have much time. They need Johnston and Josh Palmer to help Keenan Allen out. Allen will get his, but teams will start doubling him if they believe no one else can get open.
Johnston has said he is a player who learns “trial by fire,” which means he learns by being out there. He is staying level-headed and keeps on working himself in.
“Just take it, learn from it and keep moving forward,” Johnston said.