Joe Buscaglia of WKBW:
It feels like almost on a daily basis now, I’m writing that “this was Zay Jones' best practice to date,” and then the next day, he raises the bar just a bit more. That’s the type of improvement you hope to see from young players in their first training camp and rookie year, and it’s what we saw yet again on Wednesday. What really stood out was his route running ability, and where some receivers loaf through breakdowns ahead of their cuts, Jones has seemingly thrived. It’s within the intricacies of route running that players that aren’t the most physically gifted to win with speed, can win all game long. That was Stevie Johnson’s game when he was working as the Bills’ top target, and it’s what kept him as a productive player until injuries derailed his career. Jones has that type of ability, and he’s clearly getting open against cornerbacks during training camp. Plus, they’re training him as both an outside receiver and in the slot. Now, the big questions are this: Can he do it during games, and eventually, in the regular season? That’s a bridge we’ll have to cross when the opportunities present themselves, but Jones has done just about as well as you could have wanted him to through the first six days of training camp. To me, he is winning the battle for the second wide receiver spot as it stands today.
Jones was the first receiver taken in the second round and the fourth wideout off the board overall. The Bills have been -- and should continue to be -- a run-oriented team, but there is plenty of opportunity for targets in Buffalo. The Rams signed Robert Woods away, and he averaged 86 targets in his four seasons with the Bills. Jones is 6-foot-2, ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, and generally tested well across the board at the Combine. He was a standout at the Senior Bowl, and showed the ability to run a full route tree in practice. Throw in the second-best drop percentage of his class and you can see why he’s a good bet to contribute immediately in Buffalo. If Sammy Watkins is active and healthy, fantasy owners will likely be using Jones only on a matchup basis, but if Watkins misses time, the rookie could quickly see WR1-type targets.
Johnson was shaping up as a nice late-round sleeper after an efficient first season with the Chargers. The team signed James Jones for depth, but Dontrelle Inman is/was Johnson's direct backup. Tyrell Williams (6'3") could potentially push Keenan Allen to the slot. Johnson's absence probably makes Travis Benjamin a solid pick in the double-digit rounds, though he has missed several practices with an unknown ailment.
They settled on James Jones.
Rapoport reported earlier that the Chargers were hosting Jones and former Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline on Tuesday, per sources. In addition, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported former Lions receiver Lance Moore would also work out for the team.
It's clear the 32-year-old has lost a step, won't get much separation from corners and will rely on timing with the quarterback to earn any production in his 10th NFL season, the story said. With Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin look like they will start, so the Chargers might be comfortable using Jones as a veteran replacement in a limited role in 2016. However as we reported several times, it's not out of the question Allen gets time in the slot with Jones on the outside.
Williams also worked heavily with the ones when a hamstring injury limited Travis Benjamin this spring. Benjamin seems back to full strength this training camp, running at full speed opposite Keenan Allen.
This falls right in line with news items we had yesterday right after Johnson went down. Williams is a bit of an unknown but has been taking advantage of injuries as far back as spring. The story also mentioned Dontrelle Inman as seeing plenty of wide-receiver reps in the early going of camp.
Right now it's unclear if Johnson will miss the entire season. Johnson went down in practice on Sunday. We just posted a news item today from the San Diego Union-Tribune talking about what the Chargers may have to do if Johnson is out for an extended time, which certainly seems to be the case. This particular beat writer pointed to Tyrell Williams as a possible replacement on the outside with free agent Travis Benjamin opposite of him. That would move Keenan Allen to the slot - and the Chargers do play a lot of three-WR sets. Javontee Herndon is another possible replacement for the slot which would allow Allen to stay on the outside. Dontrelle Inman is also on the roster.
Our own sports physical therapist Russell Manalastas weighed in on Johnson's injury: With any torn meniscus the important thing to consider is the size and location of the tear. The meniscus is a cartilage that lacks adequate blood flow so location of the tear is really important. One option would be to do a menisectomy where they just take the portion that is torn out to prevent the knee from catching, lacking, or buckling on him. The other option would be a meniscal repair, where they stitch the torn area back down to preserve the meniscus and preserve the knee from degenerative changes later on. With this being the NFL and how things are always expedited, my guess would be that if they can, they'd clean up the area that was torn, shave it down so there are clean edges, and then start the rehab process. Menisectomy timetables are significantly shorter in terms of recovery (4-6 weeks, depending on pain tolerance, strength and other factors), whereas meniscal repairs are a much longer recovery (4 months or longer, and that's being optimistic). Once we find out what type of surgery Johnson has, then we can figure out what the expectation should be.
If the knee injury Stevie Johnson sustained Sunday sidelines Johnson for an extended period, Williams could see a bigger role.
The story said Williams could play on the outside with Keenan Allen moving to the slot if Johnson would miss time if the injury is serious. Javontee Herndon, who was sidelined Sunday, has the shiftiness that can play up in the slot if the tricky mental nuances are mastered, the story said. If Herndon can play the slot at some point, that would allow Allen back to the outside, but it all depends on the seriousness of Johnson's injury. Over the last couple of years, the team has tried to move Allen around which seemed to help last year. The Chargers use a lot of three-WR sets.
Friday, January 1, 2016, 6:26pm
Chargers WR Stevie Johnson (groin, questionable) took limited practice reps again Friday and is questionable for Week 17. Johnson will apparently be a game-time decision. The Chargers play late on Sunday.
Dontrelle Inman remains a Sneaky Start with Johnson sidelined.
San Diego Chargers
T King Dunlap (ankle), LB Kyle Emanuel (concussion), DT Sean Lissemore (shoulder)
T Chris Hairston (abdomen), CB Steve Williams (hip)
S Nate Allen (knee), DE Mario Edwards (neck)
CB Neiko Thorpe (neck)
A groin injury had sidelined Johnson since he exited the Dec. 6 game against Denver.
With the next game Thursday at Oakland, Johnson won't have much time to get back up to speed, the story pointed out. Johnson would likely assume the team's WR1 role if he plays but he's not a sure thing on a short week and owners should continue to monitor his progress.
Friday, December 18, 2015, 6:32pm
Chargers WR Stevie Johnson (groin, doubtful) missed practice all week and is doubtful for Week 15. Johnson doesn’t look likely to make his return this week. Dontrelle Inman looks like the best play in the San Diego receiving corps, though Maclom Floyd’s deep speed makes him an interesting dart throw in a nice matchup with the Dolphins.
Friday, December 18, 2015, 6:32pm
Chargers WR Dontrelle Inman (neck, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 15. It appears that Inman is going to return this week. He’s a Sneaky Start, especially if Ladarius Green sits. Prior to his injury, Inman had eight catches for 114 yards and a TD on 14 total targets in Week 11 and Week 12, and that was with Stevie Johnson in the lineup. With Johnson out, Inman could see the most targets of the San Diego wideouts.
Thursday, December 17, 2015, 6:06pm
Friday, December 11, 2015, 6:22pm
Chargers WRs Stevie Johnson (groin, out) and Dontrelle Inman (neck, out) missed practice all week and are out for Week 14. Malcom Floyd, Javontee Herndon, Tyrell Williams and the newly re-signed Vincent Brown will lead the way against the Chiefs. Ladarius Green could see a lot of playing time in two-TE sets.
Thursday, December 10, 2015, 6:31pm
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