No, this isn't 'Hooked on Phonics.' This is simply my inaugural piece here on BOLTHYPE and it only seemed appropriate that it somehow incorporated both some football and some pronunciation tips. With Vincent Jackson's holdout appearing to be more of an ordeal than originally anticipated, it seems that Philip Rivers will need to find some new faces to become his primary targets in 2010. The supporting cast expected to fill in for Jackson in this time of need is largely unknown and somewhat unproven currently so let's take a look at one of my personal favorites likely to see an increased role in the Bolts offense this season.
Boise State first put him on the map, but until the Chargers drafted him in the 5th round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Legedu Naanee was nothing more than a ridiculously fun name to say. In watching his development with the team over these past three seasons and continuously seeing him underutilized in the offensive attack, this year is finally setting up to be a coming out party for my favorite player on the Bolts roster. His versatility is largely underrated at 6'2" 225lbs. and a former quarterback in high shool actually recruited to play that position with the Broncos of Boise. If Chargers fans think that LaDainian Tomlinson was a treat lining up in the shotgun and throwing passes then they will potentially love the added dimensions that Naanee could offer to the Bolts already potent offense.
One statistic that often goes overlooked within the litany of numbers that are thrown around in the NFL is receiving efficiency for pass catchers across the board. Naanee actually led the league in that category catching 88.9 percent of the passes thrown his way totaling 24 receptions for 242 yards in 2009. As the team’s third receiver he dropped just one of his 27 targets and led the team with his yards after the catch average (YAC) of 9.4 per reception. Considering the fact that these numbers were accumulated while in a lesser role as a slot receiver where he was often the second or third option in Rivers’ progressions, Naanee’s totals are quite impressive. Given the fact that he will likely be expanding his role significantly in the coming season as the team’s number two wideout sans V Jack just behind Malcom Floyd, it seems fair to assume that his totals could increase significantly.
What really makes Naanee’s addition as a full-time starter such a positive thing for the Bolts is his prowess as a blocker on running plays. When originally drafted by the team, Naanee was considered a man without a position and listed as a tight end on the depth chart. His tenacity to get after any defenders in front of him and put a body on them to help out his teammates is a definite plus when it comes to earning a starting role with the team. Reliability has to be the adjective attached to Naanee most often with his sure handedness along with his blocking abilities. As a selfless player, this once underutilized player could find himself in prime position to become a major contributor to Norv Turner’s offense in the coming season.
Turner is drinking some of the Naanee Kool-Aid as well believing that this is his year to prove he is worthy of a starting role as a receiver in the league. Of the progress he’s seen, Turner told Chargers.com: “We’ve been coaching Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis for three years and they’ve gotten better every year. When they’ve been asked to and when they’ve had an opportunity, they’ve made great contributions. Legedu believes he can be a dynamic, explosive receiver in this league.” To this point in their careers, Naanee has outperformed Davis by leaps and bounds with Buster being selected nearly four full rounds prior to Legedu in the same draft. The Chargers would obviously love it if both could step up their games in 2010 to lessen the effect of Jackson’s absence from the team’s passing attack.
Personally, the Legedu Naanee Kool-Aid has tasted great to me for the previous two years, but he was lost in the shuffle of wideouts coming and going in San Diego. This year really could be the season where the rest of the league realizes just how productive this kid can be when given the opportunity. To this point in his career, most fans may know him for his amazing hair, his faux-marriage proposal to a Bolts cheerleader, or even just his fantabulous name. After the 2010 season however, hopefully many fans will come to understand just how impressive this guy can be between the white lines on Sundays as an every down player.
What do you think we should expect from Naanee this year? Are you excited about his upside, or do you think Naanee is still a work-in-progress? Without Vincent Jackson for a majority of the season, do you think Naanee will enter the spotlight and make a name for himself around the league? Leave your take in the comments section below!
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