SAN DIEGO -- With the addition of tight end Hunter Henry and fullback Derek Watt from this year’s draft, the San Diego Chargers likely will use two-tight-end and two-running-back sets a bit more frequently in 2016.
But that does not mean the Chargers will not lean on three-receiver sets again this season.
When San Diego goes to its two-minute and hurry-up offense, it will use a three-receiver formation because of the ability for quarterback Philip Rivers to quickly read the defense and create favorable matchups with that personnel grouping.
And one of the strong points for San Diego’s offense is the three-receiver personnel group of Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and Stevie Johnson at receiver, Antonio Gates at tight end and Danny Woodhead at running back.
And that leads to our first question in this week’s mailbag:
@eric_d_williams: Through the first four games of last season, Stevie Johnson was targeted 21 times, totaling 18 receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson established a good rapport with Rivers during offseason work and was an important part of a San Diego offense that averaged 24 points a contest through the first four games.
Then Antonio Gates returned to the field after a four-game suspension and Johnson missed the next three games with a hamstring injury.
Johnson missed six games because of hamstring and groin injuries last season. He finished with 45 receptions for 497 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson hasn’t played a full, 16-game season since 2012.
And while Johnson had his best game statistically in Week 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, finishing with seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdowns, he never regained the consistency he showed earlier in the year.
The Chargers ran 710 snaps in three-receiver sets last season. During Ken Whisenhunt's tenure as the team's offensive coordinator in 2013, the Chargers ran 583 snaps in three-receiver sets.
So with the return of Whisenhunt in 2016, the Chargers will likely use more run-heavy personnel groups. But they won’t totally go away from using three-receiver sets.
And that means if Johnson can stay healthy, he will receive plenty of targets this year. Even though he turns 30 next month, Johnson has shown he can still create separation in the middle of the field on third down and in the red zone.
@eric_d_williams: Entering his second season, Darius Philon is expected to take a jump in production in 2016.
Philon has been used as an interior pass rusher in obvious passing situations during offseason work. And when rookie Joey Bosa missed time during mandatory minicamp due to a contract dispute, Philon replaced the Ohio State product in San Diego’s base defense at defensive end.
A sixth-round selection out of the University of Arkansas last year, Philon benefitted from the presence of veteran Brandon Mebane in San Diego’s defensive-line group. And the hope is the 22-year-old will continue to develop and mature as a pass rusher.
Philon played 138 snaps last season, finishing with five tackles -- including two tackles for loss -- and two quarterback hits.
“His skillset is pretty good,” Chargers defensive line coach Giff Smith told the team’s website. “He has really good hips, explosive power, long arms and a big butt. He can do a lot of good things for us. He is someone who is intriguing. Hopefully we can develop him, and I think he can be a really good player in this league. I’m excited to see him develop. He’s a good guy to keep an eye on as we move forward.”