Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had a bit of a resurgence in 2014. Although his receptions (69) and total yards receiving (821) went down from the previous season, his touchdown total skyrocketed past his 2013 total. In fact, with his 12 touchdowns in 2014, he eclipsed the previous year’s mark by three times! That impressive stat shows that Gates is still the go-to guy for quarterback Philip Rivers in the redzone. But can he keep producing at such a high level in 2015? To answer that, one must consider what makes him so good to begin with. Does his skill-set require youth to be effective?
Answering the aforementioned questions in reverse order, I would say that Gates’ skill-set does not require youth to make him effective. In fact, it is his experience and savvy that makes him so great in the redzone. Gates has always had a knack for getting open. You cannot watch a Chargers game on television without hearing the announcers talk about how he played college basketball. He helped revolutionize the tight end position by blending his basketball skills with his football talent. He still has the ability to, “box out” defenders and position his body in such a way that only he can get to the ball. Gates has also learned to read defenses and take what they give him. He can still figure out where the open field is and get there. His connection with Rivers is so strong that he can break off his pattern and Rivers will still find him. It takes time to build that kind of chemistry.
So what makes Gates so good? The veteran tight end attributes his rebirth of sorts to an injury he suffered in 2010. While standing on the sidelines, Antonio made it his business to study defenses and learn how to exploit them. Being the consummate professional, he refused to mope on the bench. He studied his craft and became a better player. Being able to teach that lesson to younger players is reason enough to keep Gates on the team. Of course, it does not hurt that he is an incredible talent as well.
So, can Antonio Gates put up similar numbers to 2014 in the last year of his contract? There is no reason to believe he cannot. His receptions may be down. His yardage total may continue to shrink. But the fact remains, when a first down is needed, or the ball is near the goal line, Gates finds a way to get open and his hands are as good as ever. Look for him to have another solid season, in what could be his last with the Bolts.
Whether Antonio Gates retires after the 2015 season, or continues playing, look for him to eventually end up in Canton, Ohio at the Football Hall of Fame. Personally, I believe he will also be the last Chargers player to ever don the number 85.
Tell me your thoughts on the matter. Can Gates do it again in 2015? Will he retire at the end of the season? Or, is it time to move on? There is no right or wrong answer, just opinions. Please leave your opinions in the comment section below. I will be sure to get back to you.
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