The Sporting News has a theory, and that theory has to do with Cam Cameron not calling as many plays for Gates as he had in years past. In their offseason report on the AFC West, they mention Gates has been running more routes as a receiver, and will become a focal point for what Norv Turner will do on offense:
It was clear in the first minicamp under coach Norv Turner that tight end Antonio Gates will not be the forgotten man, as he sometimes was under former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Turner, who will call offensive plays, broadened Gates' repertoire of routes. Turner seems intrigued by how good the offense can be, and Gates is at the center of his plans for making it more potent. Creating options for Gates will confuse defenses and should add a dimension to the offense, which led the league in points in 2006. Turner is intense, demands excellence and pushes players beyond what they were doing.
Indeed, Gates had a lower output last year in catches, with only 71 compares to 80+ like that past two years. Four times he went over 100 yards in 2005, but he only reached that mark once in 2006. Obviously any good coach tries to get the best out of their players, but Norv Turner will be extra creative with Gates on the field.
“He runs the routes so well. He can run all the wide receiver routes,” Turner said. “It’s something that we want to incorporate. How much we do of it depends on who we’re playing and how they’re playing us. Every time you can add a wrinkle and do something different, it gives a defense a problem. He’s a guy you can really create some mismatches with.”
To imagine Antonio Gates as an even greater threat to opposing defenses could mean the establishment of new tight end records. Gates will have the opportunity to not only reach his own record of 10 touchdowns with 1000 yards receiving, but to actually shatter that record. Watching the success Antonio Gates will have this upcoming season should be extremely exciting not only for fans, but for Mr. Gates as well:
“It’s been challenging but it’s been fun,” Gates said. “That’s what Norv is known best for. When he has weapons, he finds ways to use them and get them the ball. I can’t help but be excited about what we’re going to do.”