Getting Better - Wide Receiver

In the BoltHype 'Getting Better' feature, the staff will take an in-depth look at the different units among the team to determine areas in the Chargers' game where improvement would be welcome. For example, in today's feature BoltHype will break down the wide receivers and will highlight areas that the staff would like to see increased production.

Good teams can always get better. Take the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers want to get better in their wide receiver corp and have committed high draft picks to the position.

In 2005, Vincent Jackson was taken with the team's second round pick. Jackson was viewed as a developmental prospect with huge upside. We saw flashes of potential greatness last year, and many feel VJ is poised for a breakout season in 2007.

The Chargers were not totally satisfied with their group of receivers, so they again looked to upgrade the position. In 2007, Craig 'Buster' Davis was tabbed in round one. The team saw Davis as a polished receiver who could come in and contribute immediately on offense and special teams as a returner.

The San Diego Chargers are unique in that their passing attack does not feature a go-to wide receiver. Instead, the passing offense under former coordinator Cam Cameron, was filtered through Antonio Gates (71 REC, 2007) and LaDainian Tomlinson (56 REC, 2007) first, and any remaining balls were trickled down and spread out among the wide receivers. With Norv Turner taking over the play-calling duties in 2007, not much is expected to change.

What will be different, however, will be the roles that Vincent Jackson and Craig Davis play in the offense. Norv has expressed that he sees plenty of room for improvement on the team, and particularly in the passing game. In Vincent Jackson, he would like more consistency:

“We just need to him to continue to grow,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “We need him to have more consistency. I think he’s working hard on that. Vincent is a big-play receiver. He did that a year ago. We can get him the ball underneath and let him run with it. Those are the kinds of plays that you have to have great consistency on.”

As for Craig Davis, he will contribute immediately as a returner and will get his fair share of receptions.

“Like all young players that come into the League, he’s going to have to learn, but we feel Craig is a complete receiver,” Turner said. “He has great hands. He has great run-after-the-catch ability. That’s something we felt we could add to our football team. He’s mature. This is another young guy who’s certainly going to contribute and have an affect.”

What is of most interest to me is that both Jackson and Davis posses the ability to gain yards after the catch (YAC). Both players are tough and physical and have big-play ability. The can make plays with the ball in their hands and can break tackles. If there was one thing that absolutely annoyed me about Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker, it was that they were too easily tackled. Rarely did turn a short pass into a big gain. And it was all too often that they were tackled with the first contact from a defender.

Keenan McCardell is no longer with the team. Vincent Jackson is likely become the Chargers' primary receiver, a position that McCardell had in 2005. Eric Parker had the most catches among wide receivers on the team in 2006, but that will surely change in 2007 with the addition of Craig Davis and the emergence of Vincent Jackson.

I'd like to draw a relevant comparison between Wide Receivers Santonio Holmes, Eric Parker, and Craig Davis. Holmes, you'll remember, was the Pittsburgh Steelers' first round pick a year ago. Taken with the 25th pick in the first round, Holmes brought a diverse skill set to the Steelers with his dual abilities as a receiver and returner.

As a rookie, Holmes paid immediate dividends. Below are his stats compared to Eric Parker's stats in 2006:


Santonio Holmes (5'11" 189lbs)
16 games, 49 rec, 824 yds, 16.8 avg, 7.0 yac, 41 1st, 2 td

Eric Parker (6'0" 190lbs)
15 games, 48 rec, 659 yds, 13.7 avg, 2.9 yac, 35 1st, 0 td

Punt Returns-

Santonio Holmes (5'11" 189lbs)
16 games, 26 pr, 264 yds, 10.2 avg, 65 long, 1 td

Eric Parker (6'0" 190lbs)
15 games, 37 pr, 331 yds, 8.9 avg, 50 long, 0 td

Looking at the above stats, its clear that Holmes is much more dynamic than Parker. Holmes' YAC numbers and average punt return are markedly better than Parker's. And considering that the rookie Santonio Holmes put up better numbers than the veteran Eric Parker gives me hope that our rookie Craig Davis can provide the Chargers what Holmes provided the Steelers.

Craig Davis has a very similar set of skill to that if Santonio Holmes. I expect that Davis will assume punt return duties from day one, and I would hope that his numbers are closer to what Holmes did than Parker.

As for YAC, I feel that Jackson and Davis are going to help the team get further down the field by breaking tackles, catch and runs, and jukes on the initial defender.

Jackson and Davis are different type of players, but both can help the team on offense. While neither may become a true number one like other teams around the league have, they will nonetheless provide Philip Rivers a good mix of talent and abilities, and both will help the offense be more productive in the passing game.

“I like different styles of receivers,” Smith said. “We like to have a mixture if we can to give your coordinator several guys; all talented with different shapes, sizes and expertise. It’s diverse. We’ve got the big guys. We’ve got speed guys. We’ve got receivers who run good routes and catch the football. I think we’ve got good football players at the wide receiver position.”

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July 30, 2007

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