There are plenty of different candidates for a potential X-factor when the San Diego Chargers face the Denver Broncos for the third time this season in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The usual suspects on both sides are certainly viable options, but one name being casually brushed aside by many heading into this contest is emerging Chargers tight end Ladarius Green. Given the way he has been playing down the stretch this season and the fact that the Broncos haven’t seen much of the versatile athlete in the two teams’ meetings this year, perhaps Green will have a coming out party this Sunday.
He’s caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Philip Rivers two weeks in a row now, and Green is really becoming a lethal red zone threat for San Diego. He is listed as a tight end on the depth chart, but the truth of the matter is that Green is in that hybrid role that Vincent Jackson played once upon a time with the Bolts. Jackson was also listed as a tight end during his first two seasons in lightning bolts, and he too came from a smaller school on his road to the NFL. The two are near carbon copies physically – Green 6-foot-6 240-pounds, Jackson 6-foot-5 230-pounds – and both players are absolute mismatches against opposing corners and safeties in one-on-one matchups.
Green only caught one pass in the two meetings between these teams earlier this season, and that could bode well for him sneaking up on the Denver secondary this Sunday. He and veteran Antonio Gates are the perfect combination as tight ends with Gates working the short routes underneath and creating space with his savvy body positioning and Green stretching the field with his dynamic athleticism and long strides. Getting advantageous looks in the slot with Green on a corner that is badly overmatched physically could produce some big numbers for Rivers and company this weekend.
Another big benefit of getting Green involved is that it will open up space for targets like Keenan Allen to work with his awareness in the creases of the defense. The rookie had two touchdowns on his two grabs in the most recent meeting with the Broncos and hauled in four balls for 41 yards back in Week 10. He and Green work well together with the field-stretching ability of Green providing Allen with room to maneuver underneath in the intermediate areas.
No matter how you look at this rubber match between the Bolts and Broncos, Ladarius Green will make an enormous impact on the offensive side of the ball. Even though he hasn’t made much of a statistical impact against Denver yet this season, that might actually work to he and the Chargers’ advantage of having the mystery factor on Sunday. Look for Green to have a serious impact on the outcome of the score as these two battle for a place in the AFC Championship Game.