Taking the step from college to the professional ranks is difficult in any walk of life, but in the NFL where the terminology and physicality change dramatically from one to the other, that step can be more like a leap on the moon. That’s why giving young players time to develop and hone their craft is vital to seeing results on the field, and the San Diego Chargers are reaping the rewards with some of their young offensive playmakers already this season.
Now in his third year, Vincent Brown is coming into his own as an NFL receiver. Despite his experience level saying three years, Brown is actually only in his second full season of action after a broken ankle in the preseason forced him to miss all of last year. Brown is third on the team in receptions after seven games with 26 catches for 265 yards and one touchdown. He has taken on a different role from his explosive output near the end of his rookie campaign where he averaged 17.3 yards per reception with just 10.2 yards per grab this year, but that’s exactly what the Bolts have needed with all of their personnel changes at the receiver position.
In his second year out of Louisiana-Lafayette, tight end Ladarius Green is taking some big steps in terms of his development. Everyone knows veteran standout Antonio Gates won’t last forever, so developing Green is a must for the future of the Bolts at the position. Green’s five catches for 113 yards this season may not seem all that impressive, but given his measly four catches for just 56 yards in total as a rookie, Green is clearly a bigger part of the offense already. Adjusting coming from a smaller school is a difficult process, and Green has made serious progress already this year. If his evolution continues the Chargers could have yet another dangerous 6-foot-6 240-pound weapon to use in a variety of ways on offense.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the year has come from rookie receiver Keenan Allen. While many felt he was a steal when the Bolts landed him in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, no one could have predicted a rash of injuries leading to a full-time starting role from the get-go. Allen hasn’t looked back in his role as one of quarterback Philip Rivers’ favorite targets as he is tied with Brown for the third most catches on the team with 26 but boasts a higher yardage total with 399 already this season. That 15.3 yards per catch average is quite impressive as are his two touchdowns on the year at the bye week. Look for Allen to continue to develop rapidly as his outstanding route-running has led to an immediate impact at the NFL level.
Some may have thought the cupboard was bare for head coach Mike McCoy when he took over the head coaching duties in San Diego this offseason, but the Bolts have proven otherwise. Rivers seems like a new quarterback, and his bounty of young weapons are blossoming right alongside of him in what is trending toward a real renaissance season for the Chargers.