There aren’t many positives to take away from the last time the San Diego Chargers were seen on a football field in live action. The second half was filled with negatives, but the first half did have some reasons for optimism when the team faced the Denver Broncos. Tight end Antonio Gates was finally a factor hauling in two touchdowns and looking like the beast that fans remember him to be. Perhaps what was most exciting from that game and will hopefully carry over is the passion that Gates exhibited during that opening half.
What stands out most in terms of passion was a scuffle that Gates got into with Broncos’ safety Mike Adams. It seemed to fire him up and really inspire the best from Gates during that first half of play. Bringing that exuberance to the table is key and even though the Denver game was the first where Gates found the end zone in 2012, this week’s opponents, the Cleveland Browns, haven’t forgotten about him. Their Head Coach Pat Shurmur said: “I haven’t seen a lot of the teams that we’ve watched on tape defend him all that effectively.”
Clearly Gates isn’t the agile, athletic freak that he used to be coming into the league as a former basketball player from Kent State. He still has plenty of skill and some of those innate moves never leave a player as he remains one of the best route runners in the game today. His acute awareness and ability to find the openings in coverage to sit down in and give quarterback Philip Rivers an outlet receiver is a priceless asset for a team whose offensive line has been lackluster thus far.
The Browns will likely focus in on Gates this Sunday trying to neutralize him as the Chargers haven’t shown any other consistent weapons in the passing game this season. Many believe that stud cornerback Joe Haden will at least in part a covering Gates and that will be quite a spectacle. There’s no doubt if Gates remains as jazzed up and hungry as he was against the Broncos in the first half for the remainder of the season, the Bolts can expect big things from number 85 for the weeks ahead.
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