Tight Ends Will Make The Bolts' 2012 Season Successful

There’s no denying that tight ends are in vogue in the NFL today and the San Diego Chargers have been at the forefront of that revolution for the better part of the past decade. Their pass catching tight end Antonio Gates has set many league records during his career and put up some incredible numbers during his career.

Unfortunately for the Bolts, their once prolific match-up nightmare in Gates has been hampered by injuries during the past two seasons. Nagging foot problems have forced him to miss nine games over that period of time and kept the team without its most dynamic offensive components at critical times during the year.

2012 looks to be a new chapter in this saga as Gates is finally healthy for the offseason program and has been in attendance as a full participant. According to Head Coach Norv Turner: "Gates looks great — he's back. Physically, he's back to where we want him to be. I think, like anybody, going through this offseason program helps you get better. (It's) the combination of conditioning, the combination of getting better in the areas you can improve, and being out there with your teammates."

Even though Gates has been productive despite missing significant time in the past, his 114 receptions for 1,560 yards and 17 touchdowns will require a plan B should the unforeseen happen again. General Manager A.J. Smith seemed to put that contingency plan into place by re-signing Randy McMichael and adding Dante Rosario to the roster in free agency. The club also drafted Ladarius Green in the fourth round to groom as the heir-apparent to Gates.

Green is 6’6” 235 lbs. and more in the mold of a wide receiver at the moment, but the team is hopeful that he can bulk up to 245 or 250 by the time the year begins. His production at small school Louisiana-Lafayette was impressive tallying 149 grabs for 2,201 and 22 touchdowns during his career. Quickly assimilating him into the mix would provide Philip Rivers with another receiving weapon to counteract the loss of Vincent Jackson in free agency.

While the Chargers have to feel comfortable with their current complement of tight ends on the roster, news that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be poised to cut the often controversial Kellen Winslow II has raised some eyebrows. Obviously the connections being the son of former Charger great Kellen Winslow means that fans would be interested in the name, but could Winslow fit into the Bolts’ current pool of talent?

That idea isn’t all that enticing given the fact that the team still has Kory Sperry on the roster as well giving them a total of five bodies at one lesser utilized position on the depth chart. Gates will be 33 years old next month, but it may be a bit of overkill to load up that heavily at one spot.

The mission for Gates in the coming season will be to maintain his health and again have a productive year like many of his past campaigns. He has a clear agenda to prove that he is still an elite player and belongs in the conversation for the best all-time at the tight end position. Tony Gonzalez certainly has the inside track for that designation at the moment, but Gates was on a pace in 2010 before his injury to shatter the record books at his position. In just 10 games, Gates had 50 catches for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns that season and hopes to regain a similar form in the coming year fully recovered from the plantar fascia injury that has nagged him ever since.

Tight end has always been a nice security blanket for quarterbacks when under duress, but more and more, the position has become the focal point of many offenses. With their current assembly of talent at that spot, the Chargers have the makings of a tight end focused offense of their own capable of finding plenty of mismatches throughout the league in 2012.

It’s your turn to be heard! Do you think that the tight end revolution in the NFL will cause the Bolts to use more multiple tight end sets this season? Will a healthy Antonio Gates return to his 2010 pre-injury form and help the team re-write the record books this year? Can recent draftee Ladarius Green be groomed into a Gates clone in the near future? Should the Chargers try to sign Kellen Winslow if the Bucs release him? Do you see the tight end position being even more important now that Vincent Jackson is gone? Please fill up the comments with your insight!

May 22, 2012

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philiprules said... May 22, 2012, 11:08:00 AM

Kellen Winslow Jr was a jerk in high school, a jerk in college, and has been a jerk in the pros. No thanks. Good luck with that one Seattle.
Can Gates return to pre 2010 form? Hopefully, but if he can come close that would be good enough. At this point in his career due to injuries and just age, it's unrealistic to expect a full return. He's still the best TE in the game, which ain't bad.
I can't see anyone "cloning" Gates, that's just too much to ask of any player. Is Green going to take over for Gates eventually? Probably, but I'd hate to see the expectation of matching Gates' abilities/performance thrown on the kid at this point.
I'd rather see the new guys at WR pick up any slack caused by VJ leaving than throwing even more expectation on the TEs. And I really don't think that's going to be all that hard to achieve considering who has been brought in.

Fbhansen said... May 22, 2012, 12:29:00 PM

Great comments...Winslow Jr sure is not half the man his father was and I wouldn't bring that type of cancer onto the team. Has Gates lost a step probably so but again your comments are spot on he's still one of the best at his position. What I'd love to see are some two TE sets and use Green like New England does with their two studs. VJ who? I think his production will be replaced by the new group of receivers which is better because sometimes a defense does lock down a player and it's harder to do that if we have multiple guys contributing like we did in 2010! Gates is a stud and hopefully will be back close to his old dominating self...no problems on the o-side of the ball....!

philiprules said... May 22, 2012, 4:37:00 PM

Yeah, I want to see Meachem and Floyd split out, Brown in the slot, Gates in close for a brush block then go and Green comes in motion out of the back field. If the line can give Philip a couple seconds to throw, how do you cover that?

Triplook said... May 22, 2012, 6:49:00 PM

gates just being there makes our offense 50% more lethal---the defenses focus on him when hes there taking focus off of someone else which opens up the running game.........

Marcel said... May 22, 2012, 8:20:00 PM

Am excited at changes with our passing game. One player which really intrigues me is Eddie Royal. He's the slot receiver that Buster Davis was supposed to be. I remember Norv being giddy after the Chargers drafted him.

Pete Spinning said... May 22, 2012, 10:13:00 PM

I just think it's funny that Gates had 10 TD's in 10 games, while injured, and V-Jax never broke double digits in his whole SD career. That's the difference between a baller, and a Diva. Hope the cash-dash was worth it VJ. This team is too big for 2 Vincents, anyway ; )

EUGENIO RODRIGUEZ said... May 23, 2012, 12:01:00 PM

Waitting for 
Ladarius Green............i hope a good Rookie season for him.

Fbhansen said... May 23, 2012, 12:48:00 PM

Right on Pete! Remember one Vincent showing heart but getting robbed of a touchdown on a VERY questionable call while the other let a ball fall right in front of him into the arms of the defender without so much as a attempt to break up the interception! Love what VJ brought to the team but he's not bigger than the team and with the talent we have in muliple receiver slots this team is going to be difficult to match up with...just hope the defense can come together quickly so we don't need to win shoot outs every week!

Fbhansen said... May 23, 2012, 12:49:00 PM

Great comment! Just think of Wes Welker type player and what that could do for this offense! Hope his decline in production was more a result of the Broncos not having a real QB!

sdreal said... May 23, 2012, 3:12:00 PM

 Royal in the slot might even be more effective than Brown.  We could never cover Royal and I think he'll give teams fits with his versatility like Sproles did.  You really have to commit to covering him, you just can't throw a LB at him and hope that works.  I think the offense is stacked.  We just need the defense to hold for us.

sdreal said... May 23, 2012, 3:14:00 PM

 VJax was a stud.  The guy blocked hard and ran crisp routes down field even when he knew he wasn't going to be the option on the play.  He was a pro.  But occasionally he, at best, lost the ball in the air or, at worst, didn't fight hard enough for it.  I think we'll miss him.  But we have enough weapons that we should be ok.

BOLTofFLASH said... May 23, 2012, 9:57:00 PM

Rivers can throw to anyone, this has been proven in the past two years. Our OLine just needs to stay healthy and give Rivers his allotted time to go through his progressions. Look at last years 20 interceptions, some where tipped balls of WR's hands( not Rivers fault) but MOST were Rivers having to move in the pocket to avoid being sacked and not setting his feet before throwing, which meant he forced throws. If our OLine is average to a lil better, watch out, Rivers will throw for 5,000 yards, 40 TD's and a QB rating close to 100( his career QB rating is 6th BEST in the HISTORY of the NFL at 95.9%). Biggest sleeper for 2012 will be Ladarius Green. he is a freak at 6'6" And can run sub 4.5's. I think we play Gates on the line (like normal) and play Green like Hernandez of Patriots( sometimes on line and sometimes in slot). That presents a huge match up problem for any defense. Look for Green to get a lot of red zone TD's too. Green has super long arms and a vertical leap of 35 inches. Can you say Alley Opp!

Pete Spinning said... May 24, 2012, 9:23:00 AM

I remember that call, and it was totally whack!!! He caught that fair, and square. But, the officiating crew... led by the famous Charger-hater, Ed Hochuli.... got their scientists to get their neutron microscopes out, and said "Look! His butt cheek touched the line ONE nano-second before his 2nd foot touched, so no TD!!!!" Total BS... but, that shows the kind of effort I want to see from players on this team! You could tell V-Jax was thinking about what his next team was going to be, back in 2010.

Fbhansen said... May 24, 2012, 4:01:00 PM

Agree with your comments about Green and how we could use him...add Royal to the mix and this offense is looking a lot like the one in New England and how Wes Welker takes pressure off with quick slants. I don't see any problems with the o-side of the ball just hoping the d-side comes together fast but history has shown that isn't the case.

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