The San Diego Chargers are one game away from having their future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame tight end back on the playing field.
Antonio Gates is forced to sit out the Week 4 contest against the Cleveland Browns due to his violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
Gates has been missed. There is no doubt about that.
Upon his return, Gates will immediately assume his place as the team’s starter at tight end.
Being without Ladarius Green in Week 3, the offense struggled to get going when pressured by the Vikings’ defenders. Having Gates back in the lineup can help provide Rivers with a much-need safety valve.
Although Green filled in admirably during the first two weeks, the return of Gates will allow Rivers and the Chargers’ offense much more flexibility in the passing game.
Though not revered for his run-blocking skills, the 35-year-old does a sufficient job when it comes to helping out the offensive line in the running game.
Where he obviously makes an impact is as a pass-catching threat. His presence will hopefully help Rivers cut down on his alarming number of turnovers thus far through the 2015 season (six through three weeks; four interceptions and two fumbles).
Gates is an integral part of the Chargers’ offense. Not having him for the first four weeks is extremely hurtful to the offense’s ability to move the ball, especially when it comes to converting third downs into first downs.
Entering his 13th year in the NFL with the Bolts, the numbers that he has put up rank in him as one of the best tight ends in the history of the league.
An undrafted free agent in 2003, Gates has registered 788 for 10,014 yards and 99 touchdown receptions. He is the team’s all-time leader in all three categories. Those numbers are good to have him at fourth in NFL history in receptions and yards as a tight end. His 99 touchdown catches ranks him as second in history as a tight end. With one more touchdown catch, Gates will be only the ninth player in NFL history with at least 100 receiving scores.
Not too shabby.
It goes without saying that Gates will be welcomed back to the lineup with open arms. His innate ability to create separation, despite a decreasing speed over the last few years, provides Rivers with the optimal target when the team needs to achieve those necessary, difficult yards in clutch situations.
Gates will be watching the Chargers’ offense do its thing this upcoming Sunday against the Browns without him for the last time. I feel as though I can speak on behalf of all Chargers’ fans when I say that we are all excited to see that No. 85 jersey back on the field, making plays as he continues to climb up the rankings as one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL.
Not too bad for a former college basketball player.
Gates is in his contract year with the Chargers. It is difficult to determine whether or not the 2015 season will be his last with the team.
For what it’s worth, it has been a great ride, Gatesy. The city of San Diego and its fans are more than appreciative of all of your hard work on the field, and your exemplary status off the field during your time in America’s finest city. Here’s hoping you go out on top.
Thanks a lot for reading.
In a move that seems to be three weeks too late, the Chargers have placed offensive lineman Johnnie Troutman on reserve-injured, according to the team’s official website. Additionally, the Bolts have again waived tight end Kyle Miller.
The Chargers’ roster now sits at 51 players.
After suffering s litany of injuries along the offensive line in Week 3, it would make perfect sense that the team adds multiple pieces to the O-line.
Troutman, a former fifth-round draft choice, has struggled to make a positive impact when he has been healthy. Known more for his run-blocking ability, no one has ever confused him for being a decent pass-blocking guard. With his placement on reserve-injured, it could be that we have all seen the last of Troutman in a Chargers’ uniform.
When looking at the offensive lineman on the practice squad, it could be that the team will add Craig Watts Jr. or Michael Ola to the 53-man roster. Truth be told, both have the chance of being elevated to the game-day roster.
Watts Jr. joined the team last season as an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M. He spent all of 2014 season on the practice squad; minus games where he was suspended due to a violation of the league’s policy substance abuse policy.
Ola started 12 games for the Chicago Bears last year. He played every spot along the offensive line with the exception of center. His versatility most likely spurned the interest of general manager Tom Telesco.
The Chargers made a couple of moves on Thursday by signing tight end Kyle Miller and releasing defensive lineman Mitch Unrein, according to the team’s official website.
Miller was recently waived by the team after originally making the 53-man roster. The former Falcon led the Bolts with 11 receptions for 66 yards during the 2015 preseason. Miller saw most of his game action on special teams for the team.
The team was almost forced to sign Miller after current starting tight end Ladarius Green suffered his third concussion in the last nine months.
The Bolts will enter Week 3 with John Phillips, David Johnson and Miller at the tight end position.
The tight end position was already hurting due to the four-game suspension of future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Needless to say, he is sorely missed. He i available to return to the field for the Week 5 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Unrein was signed this offseason during free agency. The former Denver Bronco was seen as depth along the defensive front.
Articles from Chargers.com:
- Chargers sign Kyle Miller; release Mitch Unrein
- Subscribe to the Chargers official YouTube channel
- What does Peterson think of Gordon?
- Gordon and Waynes: From best friends to enemies
- Advantage: Norv Turner or the Bolts?
Articles from ESPN.com:
- Norv Turner faces former team in Chargers
- Melvin Gordon misses the cut on rookie rankings
- Ladarius Green suffers second concussion in two weeks
Articles from The San Diego Union-Tribune:
In an effort to strengthen the depth of the offensive line, the Bolts have signed Kenny Wiggins, per the team. Wiggins has been with the team in spurts since 2013. In a corresponding move, the Chargers have released tight end Kyle Miller.
Wiggins, 27, has played all along the offensive line during his time with the team in past years and this offseason. Although he was waived as a part of the team’s cut-down to the final 53-man roster, they obviously thought enough of him to bring him back.
Wiggins is the second former Charger that the team cut/waived prior to the naming of the 2015 roster that is back with the team.
The first was tight end John Phillips.
Miller was chosen in favor of Phillips for the 53-man roster prior to the Week 1 contest against the Lions. The Bolts then brought back Phillips as insurance when Ladarius Green was dealing with concussion-like symptoms.
All three ending up seeing the field against Detroit, with Green being the only of the trio to make a mark in the boxscore.
The fact that the Chargers changed their minds, in a sense, keeping Phillips and waiving Miller today, is a bit confusing.
For what it’s worth, Phillips is a versatile player that also contributes on special teams. He is not much of a threat as a receiver, but he is solid as an in-line blocker. For his career, he has registered 35 catches for 249 yards and three touchdowns. His lone reception last season was a one-yard touchdown catch against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Thanks a lot for reading.
The Chargers announced on Thursday that they have re-signed tight end John Phillips. The 28-year-old was one of the final players released prior to the announcement of the team’s 53-man roster.
In order to make room for Phillips, the team waived undrafted free agent Tyreek Burwell. The former Cincinnati Bearcat offensive lineman was a surprise signing to the 53-man roster.
Entering his seventh season in the NFL, Phillips began his career with the Dallas Cowboys, playing in 48 total games. Joining the Chargers in 2013 through free agency, the team uses him to do a lot of dirty work on offense and special teams. Although the boxscores have yet to show it, Phillips has done a good amount to help the team win ball games.
For his career, the veteran has recorded 35 receptions for 249 yards with three touchdowns.
The signing of Phillips could prove that the status of Ladarius Green is not what the Bolts had hoped for. Green was evaluated for a concussion at Wednesday’s practice.
With the home opener on Sunday and the possibility of Green missing the game, the Chargers tight end group would look like this: John Phillips, Kyle Miller and David Johnson.
San Diego Chargers All-Pro, future Hall-Of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates made headlines this summer when he said he wanted a lighter workload this season. After years of dealing with debilitating plantar fasciitis, Gates looked like his old self as he caught 12 touchdowns, one short of his career high of 13 touchdowns in his breakout 2004 season.
The next touchdown Gates catches will be the 100th of his career, the rarest of air for a tight end. To date, only one tight end has caught more than 100 touchdown passes in NFL history, Kansas City great Tony Gonzalez with 111. Gates will do it in three fewer seasons than Gonzalez.
This will be a season to watch number 85 for a number of reasons. Barring injury, he is most assuredly going to catch number 100. It will be worth keeping an eye on Gates all season to see if Philip Rivers can get him 13 touchdowns this season, placing him at No. 1 all-time for touchdown catches by a tight end.
Fittingly, like Rivers, Gates is also in the last year of his contract.
Can all this talk of wanting a lighter workload be indicative of wanting to complete an unspoken farewell tour in one piece? No one is more deserving of a victory lap than man that revolutionized the tight end position by using his basketball background as a standout frontcourt player at Kent State to become the greatest undrafted free agent in Chargers history.
While it is possible Gates could continue his career beyond this season, the writing is on the wall. It is time for the heir apparent to Gates’ throne to step up and claim it. Who will do it? Let’s look at the candidates.
Ladarius Green: Now entering his fourth season on the roster, the 6’6″, 240 lb. Green was expected to have a breakout year last season. Instead, Gates found the fountain of youth and played most of the snaps last season. Green has shown flashes of potential on offense. The highlight of his season was a 60-yard touchdown grab against Kansas City, where he showed great agility and surprising breakaway speed for a man his size. He’s had three seasons to learn from the master, now it’s time for him to put up or shut up.
John Phillips: The 6’5″, 250 pounder is a seven-year veteran. Used for protection, Phillips proved to be an asset due to his skill as a blocker. During the 15 games he played for the Chargers last season, he lined up at fullback in addition to his tight end duties. He caught one pass for one yard last year, but it went for a touchdown. A knee injury landed him on IR for the last game of the season, but he looks to be ready to go when the new season begins.
David Johnson: Like Phillips, Johnson (6’2″, 260) is entering his seventh season. Signed away from the Pittsburgh Steelers last offseason, Johnson was primarily used as the de facto fullback. He was a good physical point of attack blocker and utilized on special teams. He had one reception for four yards. Expect more of the same this season unless an unknown makes a stronger case for his spot.
Kyle Miller: Two weeks ago the Chargers claimed Miller off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons. The 6’5″, 260 pound product out of Mount Union is a second-year pro. He played one game with Indianapolis in 2012 and was cut from the Miami Dolphins in 2013. Last season he was on the Falcons practice squad. Miller is the son of former NFL quarterback Mark Miller. At 27, he is still looking for his first official NFL reception. In college, he was a three-time Ohio Athletic Conference first team selection as a tight end. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do in training camp.
Dave Paulson: The (6’4″, 240) former Oregon Duck spent the first two years of his NFL career (2012, 13) in Pittsburgh. The Chargers signed him to their practice squad shortly after the beginning of last season. Coming from Oregon, Paulson was recognized as a dependable pass catcher and leader. His ability to block will most likely determine whether he will make the team.
UDFA rookies Eric Frohnapfel and Brain Parker: Frohnapfel is an intriguing prospect from a size standpoint. He stands 6’7″ and weights 235 pounds. As a member of the Marshall Thundering Herd he accounted for 37 catches for 420 yards and five touchdowns. If his blocking and route running are on par, he could be an unstoppable red zone target after the staff gets time to coach him up.
The 6’4″, 260 lb. Parker logged similar numbers in college at Albany, where he collected 39 balls for 500 yards and five touchdowns. The two are camp bodies but the scouts have seen enough impressive tape on them to extend invites and give them the chance to make the team. The Chargers obviously won’t carry seven tight ends on the roster, but three on the active roster and one on the practice squad is very likely.
At this point Green, other than Gates, is the only person I would pen onto the opening day roster. Everyone else is expendable. All of these players will have the advantage of being able to watch how a future first ballot Hall-Of-Fame player at their position prepares and trains. They will also have the benefit of having a legend of the game as their position coach in Buffalo Bills’ great Pete Metzelaars. Metzelaars won a Super Bowl ring as an offensive quality control coach for the Indianapolis Colts. It’s up to them to learn and adapt as much of their expertise to their game as they can.
We all look forward to seeing this camp battle play out. Who do you think will secure the role of Rivers’ next security blanket?
The Greg One