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.
The Chargers finished 4-of-7 (57 percent) for the game inside the red zone. The Chargers were solid in the red zone as well last year, finishing tied for 13th at (54.2 percent). Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal were frequent targets of Rivers last season.
But with both of those players gone and Woodhead back, Rivers has a trusted blocker in pass protection who can make someone miss in space out of the backfield in compact spaces.
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.
"As Coach has always said -- I'm not saying anything out of the blue -- it's a running back by committee crew," Rivers explained, via The San Diego Union-Tribune. "It's going to be a team effort in that bunch. We're going to need all of them to carry the load in the run game and to catch the ball out of the backfield."
The Bolts might have been planning all along to use Danny Woodhead as their primary passing-down back, but NFL teams don't spend first-round draft picks on running backs with the idea of installing a committee attack.
Gordon has disappointed this summer, acknowledging after his preseason debut that he must be a more decisive runner.
The Chargers traded up to get Gordon, so we’d expect they’ll use him often in 2015, though his preseason hasn't gone well. He doesn’t have a lot of experience as a receiver, so we'd expect that Woodhead still gets a lot of work on third down and in the two minute offense.
Monday, August 31, 2015, 8:29pm
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was a limited participant in practice Monday, two days after heading into the locker room early after hitting his throwing hand on a defender late in the second quarter of the Chargers' preseason game against the Seahawks.
Rivers handed off a few times during the portion of the workout open to the media but didn't throw in positional drills. Kellen Clemens was at quarterback in Monday's practice.
Coach Mike McCoy said Rivers' limited participation wasn't because he hit his right hand Saturday.
Rivers had his hand X-rayed Saturday and said after the game that the X-rays came back negative.
In the third quarter, Rivers told Tracy Wolfson of CBS that the hand recently used to sign a gigantic contract is fine.
“It’s good,” he said of the right hand, adding that he’d still be playing if it were a regular-season game.
Rivers played at an extremely high level for the first half of the season, completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 277 yards, 2.5 TD and just 0.6 interceptions through Week 8. He posted #3 QB numbers in that span, but he was the #19 QB down the stretch after injuring his hand in Week 9 against the Dolphins. He then suffered back and rib injuries and threw for multiple touchdowns in just two of his final eight games (averaging 1.6 INT) as the Chargers fell out of playoff contention. If he's fully healthy entering the 2015 season, he will once again be a fine value pick in the later rounds, but owners should be prepared to stream if the injuries start to pile up. The four-game loss of Antonio Gates doesn’t help, but Ladarius Green and Stevie Johnson should be able to pick up the slack.
Chargers beat writer Eric D. Williams: Stevie Johnson signed with the Chargers in free agency to help fill the void left by Eddie Royal's departure, and so far has looked rejuvenated in San Diego’s offensive system. Johnson’s developed a good rapport with Philip Rivers and will be used both in the slot and on the perimeter. He has a shot at 50 receptions and at least four touchdowns.
We project Johnson for 54-755-5.2 as the Chargers' WR2. From 2010 to 2012, he was one of the most consistent receivers in football, posting at least 76 catches, 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in three straight seasons. In PPR formats, he was the #10, #16 and #18 receiver in those seasons. The Chargers lost Eddie Royal, so there are targets to be had, especially with TE Antonio Gates suspended for the first four games.
The contract extension Philip Rivers signed with the San Diego Chargers provides the quarterback a no-trade clause that significantly increases the likelihood he will play his entire career with the franchise, according to league sources.
While many wondered whether the deal would include language that voided the agreement or contained other out clauses if the team relocates to Los Angeles, the opposite actually occurred.
Rivers, 33, is firmly committed to the organization for the next five years. He previously expressed a reluctance to raise his family in Los Angeles, where the Chargers could move. The quarterback and his wife are expecting their eighth child.
The new contract provides Rivers $65 million in guaranteed money, the most of any NFL player currently under contract, the story said, so both sides are committed. Even though the Chargers have tried to focus on the run the last few years, Rivers has proved he can still flash some big fantasy stats for owners. Injuries over the second half last year did limit those numbers. But Rivers is again one of those QBs available in the middle-late rounds of drafts who could prove to have some value at the position, especially if you're looking to wait and stream your QBs.
Melvin Gordon's hands are better than you might expect from such a run-heavy college offense -- and the Chargers throw the ball to backs about as much as anyone in the league. But the pass protection remains a work in progress. And while Philip Rivers probably won't play all that much in the preseason, he admits he'll be watching closely from the sidelines.
"He's still having to adjust to protections and to the route running," Rivers said, "but the good thing is he catches it well, catches it naturally. And protections, shoot, it's like not that I've had to sell it to him, but I said, hey, you pick up the right guy on third down and pick up the protection, and there's two reasons you've got to love that. One, is it helps us win. And another is you get another carry. Now it's first down, and you get another carry. We don't get it, and we punt, and you look up and we start getting behind, you're going to be standing over there watching us in two-minute stuff."
This is the second news item discussing Gordon's issues with pass protection, which confirms our belief that it's going to be Danny Woodhead, not Gordon, playing on third down and in passing situations. Rivers confirmed as much when he said that Gordon would be on the sideline watching the team in the two-minute offense. Woodhead is shaping up to be a fantastic value in the 9th/10th round, especially in PPR formats.
People around here are thinking Stevie Johnson could do big things in the Chargers' offense. The ex-Bills and Niners wideout is already simpatico with QB Philip Rivers. And with Antonio Gates suspended for the first four weeks, Johnson will be an integral moving part who could line up in the slot, out wide, wherever.
"His track record speaks for itself," Rivers said. "He had three 1,000 yard seasons in Buffalo, and those don't just happen by accident. So already, knowing that, I was excited. But you're always also a little bit apprehensive, because you don't know how quickly it's going to come together, and sometimes it takes more time."
Rivers said, however, that him and Johnson have connected quickly. "Even in OTAs and especially in the first 10 days of camp we've had a lot of things come that are trust-building plays and things that happen where he made a great catch and I threw it in a spot where it's got to be you or nobody, or something where we both felt it in the red zone and felt a void and knew I would do that," Rivers said. "Those kinds of things give you confidence, and he's been really good."
Johnson has earned high marks from Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco also thus far, and looks like he might be a big part of the offense.
From 2010 to 2012, Johnson was one of the most consistent receivers in football, posting at least 76 catches, 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in three straight seasons. In PPR formats, he was the #10, #16 and #18 receiver in those seasons. The Chargers lost Eddie Royal, so there are targets to be had, especially with TE Antonio Gates suspended for the first four games. Johnson is having a good camp, so it appears that he’ll play ahead of retiring wideout Malcom Floyd.
From 2010 to 2012, Johnson was one of the most consistent receivers in football, posting at least 76 catches, 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in three straight seasons. In PPR formats, he was the #10, #16 and #18 receiver in those seasons. The Chargers lost Eddie Royal, so Johnson will presumably replace Royal in the slot, though he had his best years playing outside. (The Bills moved him into the slot in 2013 and his production dropped.)
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.
“(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.
Sunday, June 28, 2015, 4:39pm
Giants QB Eli Manning, 34, signed a six-year, $97 million deal with the Giants in 2009. It's been re-worked frequently to create salary-cap room but Manning's still on the same deal. It expires after the 2015 season.
Despite his age and despite his propensity for throwing picks (he's led the league three times, including 2013), Manning has two Super Bowl MVP awards and certainly qualifies as a top-end quarterback.
From a fantasy perspective, Manning had one of the best statistical seasons of his career in 2014, throwing for 4,410 yards with 30 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. That he did it in a new offensive scheme is only more impressive. It was a rough start for the Giants but the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr at WR certainly helped turn around the offense. WR Victor Cruz should be back healthy and the team signed Shane Vereen as a pass-catching running back. The point of the story is more times than not, QBs tend to get deals done with their current team, so there's a good chance Manning stays in New York - and he has the potential for a nice 2015. He's ranked ninth on our QB list heading into camps. With an ADP of the 12th round, he's a potential sneaky pick because guys behind him in our rankings - Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford - all project to come off the board before Manning.
Melvin Gordon gives the Chargers a home-run threat at running back. Gordon exceeded expectations during offseason work, which is impressive, considering goals were high for the Wisconsin product after he was selected in the first round of the draft as the replacement for the departed Ryan Mathews. However, Gordon has to take the next step in training camp, which means playing fast and physical, as well as keeping up with a fast-paced San Diego offense led by Philip Rivers.
The Chargers traded up to get Gordon, so we’d expect they’ll use him early and often in 2015. In fact, GM Tom Telesco used the phrase "impact player" 11 times in Gordon's introductory press conference. Ryan Mathews is gone, so it’s Gordon’s job to lose. He doesn’t have a lot of experience as a receiver, so we'd expect that Danny Woodhead still gets a lot of work on third down while Gordon establishes himself as a good weapon out of the backfield. This somewhat limits Gordon's upside since he doesn't project to be an every-down back as a rookie.
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