One of the biggest surprises on the second day of the NFL Draft was the Chargers selecting a wide receiver. In the third round, they selected Josh Palmer out of the University of Tennessee. He was known for the way he could use his body to come down with the ball.
He spoke to the media after the draft, saying he would be "in their back pocket like some spare change" to receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. He wanted to learn from both of them how to be a pro on and off the field.
Training camp is two days away from being over, and Palmer feels like he has learned a lot from Allen.
"The game," said Palmer. "Keenan is a special player. So, from a skill standpoint, not a lot of people can do what he does, so he teaches me a lot of leverage and stuff. Coming off the ball attacking using my abilities to my strengths, and just being confident learning the playbook."
During training camp at Jack Hammett, every time Palmer came off the field from reps, he would walk over to Allen and go over the sequences.
"Josh is doing a very good job, with as young as he is and how he's able to run routes," said Allen. "He's aggressive, he's friendly with the quarterbacks, and he's precise. That's a good thing from a rookie."
The veteran receiver has watched many receivers come into the organization, so when he talks glowingly about a player, it is because he recognizes the talent. He went so far as to say that Palmer is better at this point than Allen was after his first training camp.
"He's polished," explained Allen. "You can tell he's polished and knows what to do. He obviously knows releases, he knows leverage. He just knows how to run routes already."
Allen is one of the best route runners in the NFL, so the young receiver is learning a lot about that area. He really is getting the best of both worlds because with Allen, he learns route running and other areas, while with Williams, he can learn about jump balls and coming down with them.
During two preseason games, Palmer has shown that he has unique abilities. Week one against the Rams, he finished with six receptions for 36 yards. He showed he could get open consistently, which he showed in the 49ers game when he scored that wide-open touchdown on a broken play from Easton Stick.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," said Palmer. "We were preaching scramble drill, and weeks before and during camp, and it was just one thing I was able to learn and execute."
The rookie receiver has separated himself during training camp as the third player even though the Bolts offensive will mix in different combinations of receivers. He can get off the line quickly, use his body frame if the defender tries to engage, then uses his speed to get separation.
Week in and week out, he has been the only other receiver besides Allen to make plays during training camp.
"He keeps making plays, so we're really pleased with him," said offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
Palmer is in a unique situation with the Chargers. While at Tennessee, he didn't have a reliable quarterback to make precise passes or put it on the money. He has that with Justin Herbert.
"I think he's talented, and he wants to get better," explained Herbert. "He comes out here every day with me to throw routes and catch. Sometimes I have to tell him, 'Hey, it's time to get off the field, you have a game this Sunday.' He's done a great job, and he's picking it up quickly."
There hasn't been a day where Herbert and Palmer aren't working after practice. Even after training camp was moved back to Hoag Performance Center, they stayed for about 30 minutes.
Palmer and Herbert want to get their chemistry right.
"That connection being in the right place at the right time," Palmer explained. "Him being young to him growing as well. I'm able to grow with it, and we're able to be on the same page for a lot of different things. But at the end of the day, it just comes down to what I need to do in order to help the team win and do my job well being open for him."
After practice on Tuesday, Palmer mentioned that he and his quarterback were a lot alike because they try to take the blame for everything. For example, if Herbert throws a pass and Palmer drops, they would each blame themselves. He mentioned there is an equal understanding that they are trying to get better.
A couple of weeks ago, he told the media he was nervous the day the team scrimmaged at SoFi Stadium but that with the help of his coaches and teammates, he has overcome that and other questions he may have had before.
"I always try to keep myself on a level," said Palmer. "But being able to come out here and compete with a lot of these great players, and just being able to learn from them, and their willingness to help me, and I felt like I definitely belong."
In August, it looks like the Chargers may have drafted a steal similar to the one they had in the third round in 2013 that is now their pro bowl receiver. Time will tell if Herbert and Palmer will get their connection down, but as of right now, the team is happy about where the rookie receiver is at in his progression and maturation.
"So, I think that the vision that we have for Josh Palmer's expressing itself," said Staley. "I feel like the player we thought he could be, he's probably better than what we thought."