Stevie Johnson’s been making plays all summer.
It just took awhile for the majority of Chargers fans to see it.
Johnson had a “breakout” game against the Seattle Seahawks in the Chargers third preseason exhibition Saturday night. And by breakout, I mean it was a good time to get a real glimpse of what he can do in this offense.
He finished the night with four receptions for 63 yards, including a 34-yard catch-and-run on the Chargers opening series of the first quarter.
Johnson didn’t catch a pass in the Chargers previous two preseason games, and not that that was overly concerning, it just was a good thing to see him involved in the offense considering its game three of the preseason—the “dress rehearsal” to the regular season—and it was against the reigning NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.
“I know he was eager and looking forward to getting involved in the game and he did early,” Rivers said. “He had a couple big catches, big plays, and big third-down conversions. It was good. That was good just to get into a rhythm in a game, both he and I together, and just him getting rolling.”
Johnson, who had three 1,000 yard receiving seasons with Buffalo, is looking to regain that form after a down season with the 49ers last year. This season will also be the first time Johnson has one of the league’s best quarterbacks throwing passes to him.
“You always want to be on the same page with the quarterback,” Johnson said when asked about the growth of his on-field relationship with Rivers. “We are working to get there. We’re not there yet, but we’ll be alright. Playing with 17, he makes it easy once you get in. It wasn’t all great but at the end of the day, I think we got some things we can work off of.”
Moreover, the Chargers have flexibility with how they want to use their new wide receiver. Multiple times Saturday night, both Johnson and Keenan Allen worked in the slot—a role primarily manned by the departed Eddie Royal last season.
“That’s going to be big for us as an offense,” Johnson said. “We haven’t done much of it this preseason but we’re starting to see throughout the practices and the games where we can play certain people. It’s looking good. We got a lot of guys on the squad, as far in the receiving room, that can play multiple positions so that’s a plus for us.”
It’s a plus having Stevie Johnson on offense.
We saw why against the Seahawks.
– Philip Rivers appeared to injure his right thumb after it hit the helmet of the Seahawks Kevin Pierre-Louis’ helmet on his last throw before the end of the second quarter. “I’m good,” Rivers said after the game. “Had this been the regular season, I would have still been rolling. That was it for me anyway, just that first half.” Rivers had it x-rayed and said, “it’s good. All is well.”
– Branden Oliver continues to have a nice preseason for the Chargers. He only rushed five times for 14 yards, but he did have a big 70-yard touchdown reception, with a nasty stiff-arm, off a swing route. “ I never want to be denied,” Oliver said. “No matter what the circumstances may be, but sometimes you’ve got to know when to go down and when to keep going. But in that situation, one on one, you have got to want it.”
– The Chargers finally “unleashed” first-round pick Melvin Gordon against Seattle. After sitting last week against Arizona, and only rushing six times for 11 yards against the Cowboys in the preseason opener, he played the entire first half and rushed for 34 yards on 14 attempts. More importantly, however, was the Gordon got some action in pass protection and had two receptions for seven yards out of the backfield. “I’m definitely getting more comfortable,” Gordon said. “It just takes reps. At the beginning of the game, it was still running a little bit fast for me and Philip (Rivers) was like, ‘Just relax. Calm down out there’ and I just tried to take what he said to heart. I know what I’m doing out there.”
– Nick Novak and Josh Lambo continued to alternate on kickoffs and field goals against the Seahawks. Novak was 2-2 on field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder, while Lambo was good from 28 yards out on his only attempt. Both had opportunities kicking off east and west, and both failed to make it to the end zone kicking east. Going west, Novak’s first kick was a touchback after the receiver bobbled the ball five yards deep in the end zone, while Lambo kicked one nine yards deep but it was returned to the Seahawks 15-yard line.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)