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Gates still improving . . . as wide receiver

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. Johnny Lightning
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    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    Versatile TE on pace to rewrite records


    By Kevin Acee
    UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

    On the Chargers' fifth play Sunday in Denver, going against a cornerback who has been to seven straight Pro Bowls, a stylish new Antonio Gates was on display. Lined up as a wide receiver at the 34-yard line, with Champ Bailey playing off him 7 yards away, Gates sprinted straight to the 20. There, without slowing, he feinted inside with his upper body. With that movement, Bailey stepped inside and got turned around. Meanwhile, Gates broke outside and was all alone as he caught Philip Rivers' pass going out of bounds at the 11 for a 23-yard gain.I would argue with anyone that's the best corner in the NFL,” Rivers said. “And I haven't seen anyone do that on Champ in any film I've watched.”

    That would be the first of Gates' seven catches for 113 yards against the Broncos.
    With three 100-yard games through five games, Gates is third in the league with 489 yards and second with 40 receptions. No other tight end is within 10 catches or 80 yards.
    There is little reason to doubt Gates is on his way to the best season a tight end has ever had. At this rate, Gates will surpass by far the NFL season records for receptions (Tony Gonzalez's 102 in 2004) and receiving yards (Kellen Winslow's 1,290 in 1980).
    Moreover, his ascending skills indicate that, if he remains healthy, any career records held by other tight ends are simply being kept warm until Gates can claim them in the coming years.
    But confining Gates to one position is perhaps myopic at this point.
    “Him being the best tight end in the game right now, I don't think that's an argument,” Rivers said. “I think you can argue about him being the best (receiver).”
    Gates, who ranks second in the league in receptions and third in receiving yards, is unconcerned with designations.
    “I look at it as more of a role I play,” he said. “I take pride in them believing in me to make a play. I don't say, 'OK, they're calling a tight end route or a receiver route.' I look at it like they're calling my number to make a play.”
    He caught two passes at Denver, including that first one and his touchdown reception, having lined up as a receiver. While he still catches most of his passes out of the tight end spot, he is running more varied routes out of more personnel groupings this season.
    “That's part of what Norv Turner brings to the table – being able to put me in a position where I have a chance to be successful,” Gates said. Rivers points out, however, a lot of his being open is Gates' own doing. “Sometimes he's lined up and there is a guy here and a guy here and they say, 'We're doubling him.' ” Rivers said. “He doesn't move any, and he beats 'em.” Such a play happened on third-and-9 in the third quarter Sunday. Gates faced two defenders, ran straight, juked right, turned left as safety Nick Ferguson fell for the fake and grabbed a 12-yard pass going left toward the sideline. It was Gates' league-leading 17th third-down reception. It has come to be taken for granted over the past three-plus seasons how Gates takes the ball away from defenders who seem to have him blanketed. “It doesn't even matter if you have him covered half the time,” Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said yesterday. “He still makes the play.” That ability is often attributed to Gates' basketball background and his knack for getting great position. But what is becoming just as common is to see Gates run a pristine route that simply confounds defenders and enables him to make a catch unfettered. It is startling how often it seems no one is covering him. He appears to surprise defenses sometimes – as if they are unaware he might actually be a target. Funny, since 32 percent of Rivers' 157 passes have gone to Gates. Asked how you cover Gates, Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison laughed and said, “I don't know. I guess the first five teams haven't found a way yet.” It's not an illusion when people remark it appears Gates is hardly running. He has put a lot of work into being a technician, studying film and tweaking his game week to week.
    “When you're watching me play now, I'm not this jittery guy,” he said. “I've got a smoothness. I've got a feel for when I can go 100 mph and when I don't have to. It's time, being around guys who know the game – Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker, guys who know route running.”
    Gates will talk for an hour about his film study and how he likes to “play chess” with defenders, varying his tendencies in routes. He speaks at length of the trust he and Rivers have built and effusively praises LaDainian Tomlinson's role in his being open.
    But he will not address his place in history.
    Not about how this season appears headed toward an unprecedented echelon.
    “It's too early,” he said. “It's five games.”
    And not about a career that could be historic as well.
    “It's so far away,” he said. “This is such a short window.”
    But it is an interval in which he is clearly getting better, consistently doing things previously unseen. “I'm not amazed, because I see it every day,” Rivers said. “But it is amazing that you're looking at a tight end who is 260 pounds out there running routes as well a wide receiver.”
  2. bigmike.x.09
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    bigmike.x.09 Well-Known Member

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    gates is a freakin beast. nuff said

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