DECEMBER 12: The Chargers will use the roster spot opened by Herbert’s IR placement to activate Palmer. While the landscape between Palmer’s return to practice and his return to the Bolts’ active roster has changed significantly, the third-year wideout will be set to make his return Thursday night. Their reputation as perhaps the NFL’s most injury-prone team notwithstanding, this is the Bolts’ first IR activation this season.
DECEMBER 6: Justin Herbert has operated without two of his top three receivers over the past several weeks, leaving Keenan Allen as the team’s lone reliable target. This has been a steady issue for the star quarterback, as the Chargers have sunk to 5-7.
While the Bolts will face an uphill battle to return to the playoffs, they may soon have one of Herbert’s primary weapons back in uniform. The team will designate Josh Palmer for return Wednesday, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. The former third-round pick has been out with a knee sprain.
Palmer has been required to play a bigger role over the past two seasons. A nagging Allen hamstring injury forced him into the WR2 role for Los Angeles’ AFC team, and Mike Williams going down with a season-ending ACL tear in September forced another Bolts adjustment. While the Chargers drafted Quentin Johnston in the first round, the TCU product has not proven dependable just yet. With Johnston struggling to establish consistency, Palmer’s absence has been felt over the past five weeks.
Regularly needed in an injury-prone receiving corps, the Canadian wideout caught 72 passes for 769 yards and three touchdowns last season. OC Kellen Moore‘s arrival has resulted in longer-range Palmer targets, with the third-year pass catcher’s yards-per-catch number moving north by nearly six yards. Palmer is averaging 16.4 yards per grab (23/377) this season.
The Bolts have used Johnston and Jalen Guyton as Allen complementary cogs, with the latter coming back after an ACL tear sidelined him for more than a year. Johnston has caught 26 passes for 242 yards, but the 6-foot-4 target — who had worked behind Palmer in the Chargers’ aerial pecking order earlier this season — has been slow to develop thus far. A Johnston fourth-quarter drop proved costly for the Bolts in a close loss to the Packers last month.
Allen, 31, has done well to pick up the slack. His 102 receptions lead the NFL, and the 11th-year veteran has posted 1,175 yards. He is on pace to eclipse his career high (1,393, from 2017) this season. But the Bolts will aim to give Allen more help as they attempt a last-ditch wild-card push. Los Angeles sits two games back in a crowded AFC playoff race.