Philip Rivers amassed nearly 4,500 yards through the air in 2013. This couldn’t have been accomplished without good pass blocking and, of course, solid pass catchers. The Bolts had an unexpected dose of both last season. We’ll take a closer look at the offensive line in a future article. Today, we’ll be looking at the Chargers’ stable of receivers and examining how each fits (or doesn’t fit) into the team plans heading into next season. Injuries early in the season forced General Manager Tom Telesco to add some new faces and some old friends, and challenged one highly-touted rookie to elevate his play much sooner than expected. In the end, there were lots of ups and a few downs along the way. The aforementioned injuries will impact Telesco’s off-season plan when addressing team needs. This position was considered a strength heading into the 2013 season, but now big question marks remain about the health of the receiving corps.
Coming into the 2013 season, the Chargers third round pick in last year’s draft was expected to see occasional time at the slot position. Playing behind Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander was supposed to afford Allen a chance to get used to playing football at NFL speed. Even so, there was a prevailing feeling that he may be able to chip in some big plays within his limited role. He had a fantastic career at Cal and many draft “experts” felt Telesco had the steal of the draft after Keenan slid to the third round due to concerns over a knee injury suffered in college. Potentially career-ending injuries to Alexander in preseason and Floyd in week two thrust Allen into the spotlight early. It took a few games for Keenan to really take off, but when it clicked, it was something special to behold. Allen’s style is not that of a speed demon threatening to get behind the defense quickly, but rather a quick, agile route-runner that can turn a 7 yard crossing pass into a 40 yard gain with his running ability. This rookie shouldered the burden as the Bolts #1 wide receiver and flourished. He displayed a confidence rarely seen in rookie receivers and a flair for the big play. He finished the season with 1,046 yards on 71 receptions, scoring 8 touchdowns. His efforts landed him the Pepsi Next Rookie of the Year award and the respect of players and coaches throughout the league. We’ll all continue to expect big things in the future and I am confident that he will deliver.
2013 was cruel to Danario. Coming off a solid 2012 campaign, expectations were through the roof. Many felt like this would finally be the season that Alexander would become the elite wide receiver the Chargers hoped he could be. The issue dogging Danario was repeated knee problems that have plagued him since the Senior Bowl in college. He has all the physical tools to be a superstar, but his knee kept failing him. Then on August 6th of last year, Alexander suffered a torn right ACL to the same knee during practice. His entire season was lost. It was made public earlier this week, that Danario has undergone a 2nd surgery on the knee. Despite the high hopes heading into last season, it looks like it may have been his last with the Chargers. The odds of him returning are incredibly low and I for one do not expect him to be on our roster next fall. Heartbreaking.
The man known as “M80” in San Diego had really come into his own. Having signed a four year, $13 million contract in September of 2012, Malcom had finally made it to the top of the ladder. Watching this young man go from distant back-up to starting wide receiver over the years has been especially gratifying for me. It harkened back to the old adage “work hard and great things will come of it”- a belief my parents instilled in me as a child. Malcom isn’t particularly fast, but he is very tall (6’5″) and has truly magical hands. He’s made some of the greatest circus-style catches I’ve seen in San Diego since the great John Jefferson and Wes Chandler donned lightning bolts. The team was counting on him to provide the security blanket that Philip Rivers needs on critical 3rd downs. Unfortunately, a blow to the top of his head on a crossing route against the Eagles ended Malcom’s season in just the second week of action. The scene was very scary as the trainers carefully removed Floyd’s face mask from his helmet and strapped his entire body to a board. Everyone watching knew that this was a bad situation. The resulting neck injury, thankfully, didn’t result in a life-long injury- but it did sideline M80 for the remainder of the season. Now Tom Telesco and company will need to take a very close look at Floyd’s future with the team. If doctors clear Floyd to return (which is still in question), the cost versus reward equation may come into play. Malcom is 32 years of age and scheduled to earn $2.75 million for the upcoming season. There is little doubt that a healthy Malcom Floyd is a solid player and can help the team for at least one more season. The real question revolves around his ability to stay healthy. Do we roll the dice or look at getting younger? Being the M80 fan I am, I’m hoping they give him another chance.
Eddie Royal had a very solid season. He caught 47 balls for 631 yards and scored 8 touchdowns. He started opposite Keenan Allen after the injuries to Alexander and Floyd. Eddie was on fire early in the season, scoring twice in the season opener against the Texans and then three more times the following week against the Eagles. What started out looking like a monster year for Royal soon faded away as his impact was felt less and less as the season moved on. The harsh reality of Eddie’s contract situation is that he is due $4.5 million dollars this year. Will Telesco and McCoy feel that Royal is simply too expensive for what he provides the team? Royal is only 27 years old and did show the potential to be a game changer. It’s a tough call for Telesco. My gut tells me that Eddie will likely be a cap casualty.
Vincent returned this season from an ankle injury suffered during the preseason in 2012 and had a moderately successful season- all things considered. Hauling in 41 balls for 472 yards and 1 touchdown may seem like a poor season to some, but for a youngster trying to return to form after a severely broken ankle, it provides hope. Like Alexander, Brown has shown flashes of greatness at times. These glimpses of what he could be have elevated expectations to levels that are going to be difficult to attain. He doesn’t show the same explosiveness out of breaks that he once had. His jumping ability appears to have taken a hit as well. The good news for Vincent is that he is under contract, he’s young and he’s relatively inexpensive- earning $645 thousand for the upcoming season. I believe his roster spot is safe. Here’s hoping that he can find a role within Frank Reich’s offense that he can grow into.
Seyi Ajirotutu, Lavelle Hawkins, Dontrelle Inman, Tobais Palmer
General Manager Tom Telesco was forced to bring in a number of receivers to fill out the depth chart as the season progressed. He brought back Seyi Ajirotutu midway through the season, a move that paid huge dividends when Seyi hauled in a last minute game winner against the Chiefs in Kansas City. Tutu finished the year with only 64 yards, but had a gaudy 21.3 yards per catch average. Hawkins was brought in to provide some depth in the kick return game. He averaged 22 yards per return, but wasn’t much of a factor in the grand scheme of things. Telesco really likes his potential however. Both of these players were “band-aid” type signings and both are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this spring. Dontrelle Inman and Tobais Palmer spent the season on the practice squad and both will be given a shot to prove themselves next preseason. Inman is a big receiver at 6’3″ and 203 pounds, while Palmer is more of an Eddie Royal type of receiver at 5’11” and 178 pounds. Keep an eye out for these two next August!
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