“It’s not easy being green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky….”
Kermit the Frog put the color green on the map with this tune. His gloomy disposition during this stanza made us all feel sorry for the little guy, and for the color green. Well, out in San Diego, there might be a similar tune sung by a man who is anything but ordinary.
At 6’6”, Ladarius Green is one of the biggest tight ends in the NFL; 2 inches taller than the future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Selected in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL draft, Green was looked at to be the possible heir to the tight end throne occupied currently by one of the best in all of football. During his rookie campaign, Green only hauled in 4 catches on 4 targets. His very first NFL reception, however, showed San Diego and fans around the globe what talent he possesses. Against the Titans, Ladarius caught a short crossing route and turned it into a 31-yard gain – showing off his 4.53 (40-yard dash) speed.
At the beginning of his second year with the Chargers, it looked like the output was going to be the same as 2012, not much action. Now whether Eddie Royal’s toe injury or Mike McCoy’s realization that they needed to exploit the former Ragin Cajun, Green delivered in solid fashion. Regardless of the reasoning for the heavy usage from week 10 through the playoffs in 2013, Ladarius was involved and displayed his immense talent. More specifically in weeks 10-13, Green was targeted 16 times with 9 receptions, 206 yards and two touchdowns. “Pee-Wee,” with only 17 regular seasons catches, led the league (of receivers who caught at least 15 balls) in yards per catch.
“But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly like.
And green can be big like a mountain, or important like a river, or tall like a tree.”
Now one of the biggest weaknesses I hear a lot about Green is his blocking. It is an important job that comes with the territory of a big Tight End/Receiver. According to Pro Football Focus for run blocking, after the 2013 season, Green was graded out with a -.5 rating – which is average. Is there room for improvement? Of course. Is this a liability? Not even close. Let’s also not forget that the elite TE’s in this league are not at the top of the grading scale as blockers. This position has morphed from an extra blocker on the line who makes an occasional catch, to that of someone like Antonio Gates. San Diego’s own Kellen Winslow started this trend, followed by Tony Gonzalez and then Gates, making that position more of a receiving position.
Is Green a “blocking” tight end? More than likely he is not, but let me remind you all that for most of 2013 he was sent in to pass/run block. As you know, Ryan Mathews had his best season that year. Coincidence? Adding in the destitute offensive line they had last year, and the fact that this man can catch anything that is thrown his way, I am not going to diminish his overall skills when he grades out being average for run blocking.
Naturally anyone who is a football fan, let alone a die-hard Chargers fan, loves watching Antonio continue to succeed and break records. Heading into 2014 season, hopes were high with the combination of Gates and Green perhaps running multiple two tight-end sets. Much like in 2001 with Gronkowski and Hernandez, a devastating duo playing during the same series, I felt Green and Gates playing as a tandem would make the Charger offense devastating and un-defendable. Green’s playmaking ability at the end of 2013 was surely going to explode in 2014. From the very beginning of last season and through week 6, the Chargers were one of the hottest teams; backing that up with a 5-1 record. During that stretch, Ladarius was targeted 14 times for 156 yards. Now beginning week 7 through the end of the season, a dismal 4-6 record, he was targeted only 11 times for 70 yards. What happened? Where did he go? Did someone forget what he did at the end of 2013?
According to Footballoutsiders.com, as of 12/29/14 Gates was ranked as the 2nd best TE and Green as the 17th. In their rankings they use multiple equations and factors that go into their final marks. One of their tools, DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), is defined by… “This number represents value, per play, over an average TE in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player’s performance.” With this specific calculation, even with the lack of targets and receptions, Green is ranked as the 10th best TE in the league.
“When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be”
Not a lot of people thought Gates was going to have the year that he did in 2014. Sure, the future Hall of Famer might have lost a step, and his blocking is on the down-slide, but you can’t argue that he still has the talent as well as all of the intangibles. To sum it up, he’s not fading away anytime soon.
Ladarius has the size, strength and speed to be the next best player at his position, but he is currently on the outside looking in. There has to be a reason for the lack of snaps and targets; something I am clearly missing. With that being said, how could last season be a “disappointment?” It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that he was not targeted often, used primarily as a blocker, and yet people want to state that he was a disappointment. My disappointment is why he was not utilized more.
This is a special player with freakishly raw skills. There is no perfect player and the only way to improve oneself is to always be learning. Ladarius can fine tune some skills, i.e. better blocking and sharper routes, but there’s no denying what a unique treasure the Chargers have as a backup to a legendary TE. San Diego needs to put Ladarius on the line with Gates and let defenses attempt to guard them. This offense, that sputtered mightily down the stretch last year, could be unstoppable with those two on the field. Perhaps then…Green, and the team, can be singing a different tune. A song called…“We Are The Champions.”
Green’s rookie contract is up after the 2015 season….ironically so is the contract for Gates. What are you thoughts on Ladarius’ past and future here in San Diego?
Thanks for reading.