Veteran tight end Antonio Gates returns to Chargers Park this week to begin preparation for his first regular-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. Gates was suspended the first four weeks of the season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Ladarius Green filled in admirably with Gates gone. Green is fourth on the team in receptions with 14 for 174 yards and two scores. But Green missed a Week 3 game against the Minnesota Vikings because of a concussion, and does not command the type of attention from an opposing defense that Gates demands.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers also gets his security blanket back in Gates. The two have combined for the most touchdowns by a quarterback and a tight end duo in NFL history with 72. His 99 touchdowns since joining the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Kent State in 2003 are the most in the NFL by any player over the last 12 seasons.
And Gates' 36 touchdown catches on third-down plays rank fourth in league history among all players, and most among tight ends.
"We'll be excited to have him back in there," Rivers said. "He helps us on the field and in the locker room. We've certainly missed him. So it will be a plus. We're acquiring a Hall of Fame free agent here in about 24 hours."
It's great timing for the Chargers who have potentially lost WRs Malcom Floyd (concussion) and Stevie Johnson (hamstring) for Week 5. Gates should have a role right away upon his return as a result, but it remains to be seen how quickly he'll be back to game-form. With a lack for WRs, the Bolts may show more two, TE looks this week. It appears more and more Green's targets could take a hit, perhaps especially in the red zone where Gates is expected to be a big weapon.
Friday, October 2, 2015, 6:45pm
Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion, questionable) took full practice reps on Friday after being limited earlier in the week and is questionable for Week 4. The upgrade to “full” is encouraging. Hopefully we’ll have more clarity over the weekend.
Thursday, October 1, 2015, 7:11pm
Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion) took limited practice reps again Thursday. Green doesn’t seem any closer to playing. He still needs to pass a few concussion tests before being cleared to play.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 6:25pm
Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Green continues to be limited. The team waived Kyle Miller, which could indicate that Green will be available to play in Week 4. Remember, Antonio Gates is suspended for one more week, so if Green plays, he’ll be a fringe TE1 option.
Friday, September 25, 2015, 7:02pm
Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 3. Hopefully we’ll have more clarity over the weekend. If Green can play, he’s a low-end TE1 for fantasy purposes.
Thursday, September 24, 2015, 6:16pm
Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Green is dealing with another concussion, so his Week 3 availability is in doubt, though it sounds like he’s progressing and could play.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015, 6:12pm
Friday, September 11, 2015, 6:21pm
Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion, questionable) returned to take full practice reps Friday after missing practice Thursday and is questionable for Week 1. Green still has to pass through the league’s concussion protocol, but it could happen by Sunday. We should have a better idea on Saturday. Newly-signed John Phillips would get the start if Green can’t play. If Green does play, he’s a low-end TE1 option and a Sneaky Start.
Thursday, September 10, 2015, 6:19pm
Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion) was added to the injury report Thursday after missing practice. Green is very likely to miss Sunday’s game against the Lions. John Phillips will get the start at tight end, but expect the Chargers to utilize Stevie Johnson and Malcom Floyd more heavily with Green sidelined. It’s a slight downgrade for Philip Rivers.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015, 7:15pm
Chargers TE Ladarius Green (possible concussion) was evaluated for a possible concussion at the end of Wednesday’s practice. Stay tuned. If Green is unavailable, it will certainly be a blow to his early season value. He’s expected to play starter’s snaps with Antonio Gates sidelined.
Green didn't have a bad year, but the Chargers want, and likely need, better from him now.
With Antonio Gates guaranteed to miss the first four games, Green will be asked to move the chains and make blocks.
The Chargers, to put it in culinary terms, need him to supply something hearty and reliable -- along with his rare long speed that is fine etoufee.
Green, 25, got that done Saturday against the Cardinals in a preseason game the story pointed out. It was a workmanlike, if limited, performance, and that was encouraging. He moved the chains on third down, with a Gates-type play we've seldom seen from him. As the story said, Green has a chance to open some eyes as he fills in for Gates for the first four games. The team will likely include Gates back in the offense upon his return, but this is a big chance for Green to prove he's at least in the conversation as future TE1 for the Bolts.
He still looks on in admiration at the precision Antonio Gates operates in the San Diego Chargers’ offense with Philip Rivers at the controls in individual and team drills. And the 25-year-old remains intently focused on improving his craft.
“My approach is the same,” Green said. “I try and work hard every offseason and every training camp. So I come into it with the same mindset, trying to get better. I started off slow, messed up a couple times yesterday, but it’s getting better.”
While Green’s approach may be the same, this year there is a heightened sense of urgency.
He’s headed into the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him $660,000 in base salary in 2015. And with his mentor Gates earning a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Louisiana-Lafayette product will have an expanded role in San Diego’s offense once the regular season begins.
“He’s going to have an opportunity early on to do a few more things,” Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. “We think very highly of him. We thought that the first year we got here, not just last year or the year before. Without Antonio for a couple weeks, he’s going to have an opportunity to get more playing time. … The system is staying the same, and we’re looking forward to seeing him play more.”
Even before Gates’ suspension, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco talked about wanting to get Green more involved this offseason, the story said. Green has showed signs. A couple of productive games likely prompted fantasy GMs everywhere to put waiver claims in. But as quickly as he arrived, he disappeared off the fantasy radar. We think Green has potential to post top-five fantasy TE numbers in the Charger system for at least the first four weeks. Right now he's ranked 18th on our list overall and is going late in drafts. He could provide you with a short-term answer at your TE spot.
In a conversation with Dan Sileo of The Mighty 1090 AM radio, Chargers OC Frank Reich said the time missed by TE Antonio Gates (suspension) will provide a chance for players such as tight end Ladarius Green, first round pick Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead to take on larger roles in the offense.
“You know it’s a big loss,” Reich said. “You can’t replace a guy like Antonio. And so from that perspective, there are things that he does and plans that we have when he’s in the game that are unique to him. … But this is going to make us better, because it’s going to force other guys to step in and force us to run the football. We’re already planning that anyway, but it’s going to force that hand even more.”
The article goes on to make it seem as if the Chargers really want to run the football this year, after averaging 3.4 yards a carry last year, second last in the NFL. That's why Gordon looks like he's in a great position to make an impact as a rookie RB. The Chargers also bolstered their line in the offseason which should help the cause. Gordon comes in 18th on our RB list but his ADP (3.02) is a bit higher than some of those ranked around him: 16th Jonathan Stewart (4.08), 17th Mark Ingram (3.08), 19th Carlos Hyde (4.02), 20th Latavius Murray (4.07) and 21st LeGarrette Blount (6.01). There is a lot of hype around Gordon as there often is with rookie RBs. It looks like Danny Woodhead will continue to be used in third down passing situations, however.
“(Green) still has huge upside and possibilities,” said Chargers TE coach Pete Metzelaars. “Last year he had to fight through a number of different injuries at different times, so I am excited for him this year. He is an asset in the passing game, and has deceptive speed. So I’m looking forward to putting him into situations to take advantage of that, but also challenge him to put more tools into his toolbox.”
“He seems faster than he’s ever been,” quarterback Philip Rivers acknowledged. “He certainly seems that way with the way he’s moving. Some of that comes with (having) more and more confidence. You just naturally gain that the more you play and the more comfortable you are in an offense. When you don’t have to think or do as much, you do play a little bit faster.”
“He’s looked really good and he needs to be a bigger part…” Rivers said. “We need to have him be a weapon for us because he could be a heck of a matchup for us against some defenses.”
Gates will miss the first four games due to a suspension for PED use. Green figures to see starter's snaps with Gates sidelined. In the five career games in which Green has seen more than three targets, he has averaged 3.4 catches for 66 yards and 0.40 TD. Thats 12.4 FP in PPR formats, or about what Julius Thomas averaged last season. Keep in mind that Green only averaged 5.4 T/G in those games, while Gates averaged 6.1 T/G last season, so Green has the potential to post top 5 numbers for the first month of the season.
Even before the suspension, Green was due a bigger role in the offense. If the Chargers utilize his natural abilities and he shows he’s ready for primetime, Gates will have to settle for a reduced role when he returns.
Given how effective Gates was last year, it's hard to see the team benching him for Green even if Green lights it up in the first month of the season. One thing's for sure -- Gates's suspension has thrown a pretty settled situation up in the air. In the five career games in which Green has seen more than three targets, he has averaged 3.4 catches for 66 yards and 0.40 TD. Thats 12.4 FP in PPR formats, or about what Julius Thomas averaged last season. Keep in mind that Green only averaged 5.4 T/G in those games, while Gates averaged 6.1 T/G last season, so Green has the potential to post top 5 numbers for the first month of the season.
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