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Chargers Could Boast Potent Mix of Tight Ends
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Every team wants to field two tight ends that can run and block. The Chargers could be able to field three in 2013: Antonio Gates, John Phillips, and now, Ladarius Green.
The second-year tight end scored his second touchdown of the preseason Thursday night against the Bears, and in doing so, proved he belonged among one of the deepest tight end units in the NFL.
“I feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year, but I still feel nervous when I go out there,” said Green. “Gates and JP help me out a lot. They’ve taught me a lot, and they help calm me down as well.”
Last year’s fourth-round draft choice is making a fan out of head coach Mike McCoy in the process.
“He’s had a good opportunity,” said McCoy. “(Offensive coordinator) Ken (Whisenhunt) had some nice calls for him and Charlie (Whitehurst) made some nice throws to him. So it was an opportunity for him to make a few plays, in the red area especially, and the first seam Charlie threw down the middle to him. This game is about making the most of your opportunities. That’s the big thing I’m preaching to the players.”
The second straight strong game for tight ends started with Gates. With 12:26 left in the first quarter, the all-everything tight end set the tone with a solid block that sprung Ryan Mathews for a first down.
Gates is known for his receiving prowess, too. And the 11-year veteran has been at the top of his craft for long enough to make the tough catches look routine.
It was easy when the Bears defense gave him the same room that the Seahawks defense did last week. In the shotgun, Gates lined up as a receiver in bunch formation with 3:15 left in the first quarter and fired off the line, sprinting across the line of scrimmage. Philip Rivers saw his top target and led him to the sideline, where he caught his first of three passes for a 15 yard gain. It was a nearly identical route to the one he ran for a first down against Seattle last week.
Not to be forgotten, Phillips made his presence known on the preceding four plays – all Ryan Mathews runs. On two of those plays, Philips acted as a sixth offensive lineman and sealed two would-be tacklers off from the play. He added a seven-yard snag to end the first quarter.
The two-tight end attack grew a third head tonight, though. Green showcased the type of athleticism that he used to toy with smaller defenders at Louisiana-Lafayette and become the fourth round choice of the Chargers last season.
McCoy and Whisenhunt dialed up a play for Green with his team trailing by two touchdowns and a field goal – and that’s indicative of the kind of trust they place in the second year player. Charlie Whitehurst waited for his target to post up over the middle before throwing his way for a 23-yard pick up. And later in the contest, Whitehurst never looked at another receiver before throwing Green’s way for a 12-yard score.