As much support as Antonio Gates has from his quarterback, Philip Rivers, that isn’t going to help him avoid the four-game suspension he will face for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He will be sorely missed, but preparation to play without the 35-year-old must begin as soon as training camp starts.
In comes Ladarius Green.
Entering his fourth season in the league, Green has flashed some major ability at times. The 2013 season seemed to set him up to have a breakout campaign in 2014. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, as he finished with 150 receiving yards less than he did as a sophomore in the league. Additionally, he was held without a touchdown in 2014 after scoring three times the previous season.
Peewee, as he was is interestingly nicknamed, sports a 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame. Add to that his blazing speed for his size, and you have the makings of quite the offensive weapon. Over the last two seasons, he’s averaged 16.7 yards per reception. That is very impressive for a wide receiver, much less a tight end.
Not only does he need to take the next step for his team, it just so happens that he is in a contract year in 2015.
There is nowhere to go, Ladarius, nowhere to hide. As gut-wrenching as it is to lose Gates for four games, it creates the perfect opportunity for Green to make the most of this bad situation.
Pundits everywhere have been claiming that they see Green as the next big thing at the tight end position. He has the measurables and athleticism to make an impact, but now he has the chance to put them together and impress both the Chargers and the rest of the league.
Despite the loss of Gates, the offense does have weapons like Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Stevie Johnson and Danny Woodhead to take some of the burden off the shoulders of Green. A solid running game would, without a doubt, help ease the 25-year-old into the fold, as well.
Speaking of the running game, Green has actually done a better job as a run-blocker than Gates, according to Pro Football Focus. Although his opportunities were far less than that of Gates, it is worth noting that he can hold his own in the run-blocking department per the standards set by his predecessor.
No one is expecting him to come out and light the world on fire, but he does need to come in and make an impact until Gates is allowed back onto the playing field. As mentioned above, due to this being the last year of his contract with the team, he’s working to earn that next deal, whether it’s with the Chargers or another NFL franchise.
Notice I didn’t say in San Diego, I said with the Chargers? That’s a story for another day.
Thanks a lot for reading.