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Turner sees Meachem as potential No. 1
SAN DIEGO – The Chargers feel they have a potential No. 1 option in former New Orleans receiver Robert Meachem.
The 27-year-old Meachem is a speedy pass-catcher in the prime of his athletic career with room to improve. He caught 129 passes for 1,980 yards and 20 touchdowns the last three seasons for the Saints and averages 16.1 yards per catch for his career.
San Diego expects big things from Meachem, who played in all 16 games from 2009-11 but started just half of them in a crowded positional group.
“He’s a No. 1 receiver. He’s a guy that has big-play ability. He can be a complete receiver,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “Obviously he’s been in an offense where they spread the ball around to a lot of people. I think he’s a guy along the line of players we’ve had that can be an 18 yards a catch guy and be a very, very productive player.”
A gracious Meachem said he heard good things about the Chargers organization from Drew Brees and Darren Sproles in New Orleans and loves the way Philip Rivers throws the deep ball. Meachem also is excited about the potential to start 16 games, flashing a wide grin when asked about his role in San Diego’s offense.
“My agent called (while I was in Buffalo) and said, ‘What do you think about San Diego?’ He said, ‘It’d be a great fit, what do you think?’ I called the misses and said, ‘What do you think about the good weather in San Diego?’” Meachem said. “She was just, ‘Hey, I’m all for it!’”
Meachem said San Diego seems like a great place for his daughters, ages two and six.
Meachem’s catch rate the last two seasons is among the best in football. He caught 68.4 percent of the passes thrown his direction in 2010-11 and averaged 15.3 yards per reception. Football Outsiders, an advanced analytics site linked with ESPN, ranked Meachem No. 1 and No. 4 in the NFL for efficiency at receiver in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
“I just want to make the big play,” Meachem said. “I have a trainer back in New Orleans, he always says it’s OK to get first downs. To me, I feel like a first down, OK, yeah, but a touchdown is better.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver is a downfield threat with speed. Meachem ranked ninth in the NFL from 2010-11 in yards at the point of the catch at 12.1, an area in which Chargers receivers excel. Malcom Floyd, whom Meachem is expected to start opposite of, ranked first in the league in the same statistic the last two seasons.
“He’s a young player that has had to overcome some injuries in his first couple years, and I think he’s a guy that will really get excited about the system, what we do and get excited about having Philip throw to him. I see him as a guy that can really improve in a real short period of time,” Turner said.
Meachem will help the Bolts even if he doesn’t get the ball, as defenses must respect his speed downfield. That should help give targets like Floyd, Antonio Gates, Vincent Brown and Ryan Mathews room to operate.
“The quicker we can get on the same page, that’s when you make big plays,” Rivers said of Meachem. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m super confident it’ll happen before we get going in the season.
“I didn’t know (Meachem agreed) until this morning. I had no idea. I woke up and had a few texts that said, ‘We’ve signed Meachem.’ I thought, what in the world, you know? I was a little bit in the tank last night thinking man, we lost Vincent (Jackson), and you saw where Reggie (Wayne) went back to the Colts, you saw (Pierre) Garcon went to Washington.
“I didn’t know where those guys fell with us. I saw Meachem’s in Buffalo, and I went, ‘Holy smokes!’ So obviously that was better than a cup of coffee this morning.
“He’s a super-fast guy and he’s been a big-play threat for New Orleans. I think here he’s going to be an every-down receiver and do a little bit of everything.”