Antonio Gates is 35, fresh off of two impressive turnaround seasons, and he was heading into the 2015 NFL season as one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets. Now, that’s all changed for Gates.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Antonio Gates has been suspended for a total of four games for using a performance-enhancing substance. Gates saw a major drop-off in production back in 2012, when, for the first time since his rookie season, he failed to top at least 700 receiving yards, according to ESPN’s player stats. It seemed that Gates’ incredible run as one of the top receiving tight ends in the NFL had come to a close.
Then came the 2013 and 2014 seasons, both of which featured Antonio Gates topping 820 yards and scoring a combined 16 touchdowns. Gates seemed to have gotten the pep back in his step and looked poised to play at a high level for at least another few seasons. The news coming out about Gates using PEDs may very well change everything when looking at his future.
The reason? Backup tight end Ladarius Green.
Green is a 25-year-old, 6’6″ receiving tight end from Louisiana-Lafayette. To put it simply, the reason the Chargers chose to draft Green in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft was to groom him as a future replacement for Gates. While he has only three seasons under his belt, Green really showed the potential to replace Gates, catching a total of 36 balls for 602 yards and three touchdowns over his last two years.
As Eric D. Williams of ESPN explains, this may very well be an audition for Green as the future replacement of Gates. Green might have had an even more extended role in 2014 if not for a concussion, as well as ankle and hamstring issues. Now, though, he’s going to do everything in his power to turn the corner and prove that he can be an every-down tight end for the Chargers, just as Gates has been.
With Antonio Gates now out for four games, we may very well be looking at the future of the offense in San Diego. If the team decides to hold on to Rivers, who was involved in multiple trade rumors this offseason, he’ll be paired up with rookie running back Melvin Gordon in the backfield, as well as Green at tight end. Is this the new-look offense of the future for the Chargers?
While the unfortunate suspension of Gates may leave fans in San Diego shaking their heads in disbelief, there may be a silver lining to the whole situation. That silver lining could very well wind up being Green, largely due to his massive potential. With Gates now nearing the end of his career, the focus must be on finding his replacement.
[Image via Christian Petersen]