COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Josh Palmer is making the most of his time during Los Angeles Chargers training camp to build a rapport with Justin Herbert.
The rookie receiver has been spending at least 15 minutes after practice catching passes from Herbert. Since Herbert isn't playing in the preseason games, Palmer is trying to make sure he is on the same page with his star quarterback when the season opens on Sept. 12 in Washington.
“If there’s anything I need to work on, I get to use the time I have to do that. We get out (of practice) early, so that means just extra time to perfect my game,” Palmer said.
With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams also among the many Chargers veterans not playing in preseason games, Palmer leads the team with seven receptions and has built a convincing case to be the third receiver.
The Chargers surprised many when they took Palmer in the third round as the 77th overall pick after the consensus among scouts was a fourth-round grade. However, coach Brandon Staley said the vision they had for Palmer has started to reveal itself and that he has in many ways exceeded expectations.
Palmer, born in Canada before moving to Florida before his junior year in high school, had 99 receptions, seven touchdowns and averaged 15.3 yards per catch in four seasons at Tennessee. He played in 47 games and started 36, but the numbers were somewhat deceiving compared to other top receivers in the Southeastern Conference because the Volunteers struggled at quarterback during Palmer's time in Knoxville.
What Palmer did show at Tennessee was the ability to excel against press coverage. Three of his four touchdowns last season came against Georgia and Alabama.
“To be able to see him operate with a premium quarterback like Justin, I think that you’re able to see the guy that we thought that he could be," Staley said. "The thing about him, his route detail, his ability to move throughout the formation, I felt like what I was excited to see was that I saw him beat press in college. I think that he’s been able to do that here.”
Allen has also lauded Palmer's route skills, saying the rookie is further along than when Allen was when he entered the league in 2012.
“I wasn’t a receiver; I just happened to be good at being a receiver,” Allen said. “He’s polished. 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.”
Palmer showed his route-running acumen and getting open on scrambles during the second quarter of last Sunday's game against San Francisco. While Easton Stick was scrambling near the right sideline on first-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Palmer broke to Stick's left at the last second to get open for the touchdown.
“I was just doing what I was told by the coaches from scramble drills. If you listen, it works," Palmer said. "I just remembered what they told us. I had a vision of the quarterback, I tried to stay planted when I was in the end zone, and that’s what I did.”
Palmer's route skills combine with being a physical receiver who isn't afraid to take a hit on cross or dig routes. Palmer and Herbert have been helping each other tighten areas of each other's games. Palmer has run plenty of dig routes for Herbert while Herbert has tried to help Palmer with plenty of over the shoulder passes."
Palmer admitted before the Chargers' team scrimmage two weeks ago that he was nervous going out on an NFL field in front of fans for the first time, but that he has felt more comfortable during the two preseason games.
"We feel like he’s a complete player. The good thing is, there’s still so much room for him to grow,” Staley said.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL