SAN DIEGO – Don’t tell the Chargers, but there’s only one position expressly reserved for players that catch passes.
The organization that recently celebrated the life of innovator and former head coach Don Coryell still employs one of his trademark philosophies. Quarterback
Gates even led the team with 1,157 receiving yards last season. As many tight ends, running backs and fullbacks caught passes as receivers (seven each), who accounted for 51.4 percent of San Diego’s 4,384 receiving yards.
But the players that manned that position in the Chargers offense defined the beauty of one of the NFL’s most entertaining downfield passing games by providing the magnificent aerial displays.
|"We've been coaching |
San Diego’s offense topped the AFC with 28.4 points a game, a distinction that didn’t the Chargers couldn’t fabricate without big plays. Rivers led the NFL in passes longer than 20 yards, thanks in large part to the receivers.
That personnel creates headaches for vertically challenged corners. At 6-foot-5, the same height as Jackson, Floyd is capable of soaring above traffic to snag passes and turn them into receptions worthy of NFL Films.
Legedu Naanee, at 6-foot-2, made 24 receptions on 29 targets last year, an 83 percent catch rate. That was the best in the NFL for receivers with 25 targets or more. He has completed foot rehab and is expected to start training camp healthy.
Buster Davis, a victim of a loaded depth chart and untimely injuries, spent most of last season inactive, waiting for a shot. He’ll push for an increased role as he enters his fourth NFL season healthy.
“We’ve been coaching Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis for three years and they’ve gotten better every year. When they’ve been asked to and when they’ve had an opportunity, they’ve made great contributions,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “If Vincent Jackson isn’t with us, (Naanee and Davis) are getting the opportunity of a lifetime. Legedu believes he can be a dynamic, explosive receiver in this league.”
As the Indianapolis Colts showed last year with previously unknown receivers Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, offenses with elite quarterbacks and top-flight tight ends tend to place receivers in a position to showcase their talent.
Turner explained in detail Thursday the team’s commitment to improving the running game this year to provide more balance, but it’s clear that no player is more valuable to the offense than its Pro Bowl quarterback.
“We’re going to be an exciting team to watch,” Turner said. “We have good football players that do unbelievable things.”
|WIDE RECEIVERS AT A GLANCE|
Averaged 17.2 yards per catch each of the last two seasons … Started a career-high nine games last year and caught 45 passes for 776 yards and a touchdown … Placed third on the team in receptions and receiving yards behind Jackson and Antonio Gates … Nickname is M-80.
Week 1 starting wide receivers, 2000-09:
2000: Jeff Graham, Curtis Conway.
2001: Curtis Conway, Tim Dwight.
2002: Curtis Conway, Tim Dwight.
2003: David Boston, Reche Caldwell.
2004: Reche Caldwell, Eric Parker.
2005: Eric Parker, Keenan McCardell.
2006: Eric Parker, Keenan McCardell.
2007: Vincent Jackson.
2008: Vincent Jackson.
2009: Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson.
Week 1 wide receivers on roster, 2000-09:
2000: Jeff Graham, Curtis Conway, Mikhael Ricks, Trevor Gaylor, Reggie Jones.
2001: Curtis Conway, Tim Dwight, Jeff Graham, Trevor Gaylor, Reggie Jones.
2002: Curtis Conway, Tim Dwight, Tamarick Vanover, Reche Caldwell.
2003: David Boston, Reche Caldwell, Kasim Osgood, Tim Dwight, Eric Parker.
2004: Reche Caldwell, Eric Parker, Wes Welker, Kassim Osgood, Micah Ross, Tim Dwight.
2005: Eric Parker, Keenan McCardell, Kassim Osgood, Reche Caldwell, Vincent Jackson.
2006: Eric Parker, Keenan McCardell, Malcom Floyd, Kassim Osgood, Vincent Jackson, Greg Camarillo.
2007: Vincent Jackson, Legedu Naanee, Malcom Floyd, Kassim Osgood, Buster Davis, Eric Parker.
2008: Vincent Jackson, Legedu Naanee, Malcom Floyd, Kassim Osgood, Chris Chambers.
2009: Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Legedu Naanee, Malcom Floyd, Kassim Osgood, Buster Davis.