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Chargers have receivers who can hit the heights

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    They have, on occasion, against the wishes of agents and others who have an interest in their health (and their paychecks), been known to play some hoops in the offseason, heading over to San Diego State or up north to LaDainian Tomlinson’s home court.
    So they’re familiar with each other’s other game. And they’re familiar with how that game helps them in their profession.
    This, folks, is tall praise:
    “When you see those boys jump, it’s almost like a work of art,” Antonio Gates said this week, a smile spreading across his face, his eyes seeming to actually see Vincent Jackson or Malcom Floyd leaping to make a reception. “You can tell they had some kind of basketball background, the way they jump gracefully. The way Malcom and Vincent attack that ball, I’m impressed. I’ll be back watching, like ‘Wow!’ They kind of motivate me once I get my chance, like ‘They did it, now it’s my turn.’ It makes us better collectively.”
    That’s the former college All-America basketball player talking about Jackson’s and Floyd’s basketball skills translating to the football field, the same way people have so long and so often done with Gates.
    “Absolutely, it helps as far as hand-eye coordination,” said Jackson, a high school hoopster in Colorado. “And think about the fundamentals (of basketball) — foot quickness, the moves it takes, body positioning, boxing out for rebounds. All of those things kind of subconsciously you learn to maneuver your body against defenders.”
    As for Gates, who led midmajor Kent State to the Elite Eight in 2002 before deciding the NFL was his ticket, former high school baller Floyd said, “He’s the best basketball player I’ve ever played personally. His jump shot, and you think he’s going to make a layup and he’ll just – bam! – kill it … His freeze is ridiculous, and that’s the same move he’ll use on a linebacker.”
    But before this veers off into an essay on how Philip Rivers and his band of big men (the 6-foot-4 Gates and the 6-5 towers, Floyd and Jackson) are simply playing catch, trading the hard court for the grass, it needs to be pointed out that these guys can run, too. It’s what sets them apart from other tall receivers.
    “The thing with Antonio and Vincent is they’re so athletic,” Floyd said. “Usually, tall receivers are slow, lanky and uncoordinated.”
    Floyd would fall more into the lanky category, but his speed is deceptive.
    Under the direction of Hall of Fame receiver Charlie Joiner the past two seasons and Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton before that, the Chargers’ big men have become precise route runners, disciplined tacticians and more than just tall skyscrapers with double-XL (triple-XL for Floyd) hands.
    Gates, at almost 260 pounds, has always been considered a receiver in a tight end’s body.
    “I don’t think you can compare him with another tight end in the league,” Joiner said. “He has innate physical ability to outperform whoever is defending against him, and he does it.”
    Jackson, especially, has become adept at playing small. He has always gotten his share of snaps lining up in the slot, and when defenses began to scheme this season to specifically take away the deep ball, Jackson went through a stretch where he was getting a number of his receptions underneath.
    To see him pull away from a defender in the middle of the field for a 9-yard reception, coming out of his breaks with precision and speed, was as impressive, in a different way, as him bringing down one of those 51-yard bombs.
    Yes, Rivers completed 23 passes this season where the ball traveled at least 21 yards in the air, third-most in the NFL. Still, almost half the Chargers’ passing yards (48.6 percent) came after the catch. That’s about middle of the pack in the NFL.
    All that said, the Chargers are certainly blessed to be in possession of this trio of giants with so much talent.
    Joiner, in the NFL since being drafted in 1969, said this conglomeration is unprecedented.
    “Not in one group … these guys are talented,” Joiner said. “I’m just fortunate to be coaching such a talented group.”
    To have these tall targets was by design, for sure, but also fortunate.
    “First of all we look for talent, period,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “If everyone is 6-4 or 6-5 and marginal players, it’s not going to help us. At this point in time it all settled in to have talented and tall receivers. It just happens to be these players are performing well, and don’t forget who is throwing the football to them.”
    That would be Smith’s $92 million quarterback, who over the past two seasons has the league’s highest passer rating, and who can make every throw and has become known for his clutch performances.
    Yet Rivers is aware of his good fortune.
    He is the only quarterback in the league with this kind of crew to throw to. Asked who was luckier – him or his receivers – to have the other, Rivers said, “Me to have them.”
    Conversely, the receivers talk about Rivers’ ability to throw the ball where only they can catch it. And that is certainly a talent. They might not be what they are with almost any other QB in the NFL throwing to them.
    “Philip knows where to put the ball,” Floyd said.
    “Sometimes it appears (Rivers is just throwing a jump ball),” coach Norv Turner said. “He’s throwing it to a spot where in his opinion our receiver is the only guy who has a chance to get the ball, and our guys do a good job of protecting it when it’s in the air.”
    But no team has even two wide receivers who are 6-5. Only St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Washington have two that are 6-4. Most don’t have one. Even accounting for tight ends, more than half of the teams in the NFL don’t have three receivers taller than 6-3.
    But of the 14 teams that do have three such targets, only eight totaled as a group as many receptions or yards as Jackson (68-1,167) or Gates (79-1,167) did individually, and only one more had as many yards as even Floyd (45-776) did alone.
    No other team had their three tallest receivers as their three leading receivers.
    And when this trio speaks about itself as a group, it includes 6-foot-2 Legedu Naanee, who lines up everywhere but most often catches balls out of the slot.
    “He’s our small receiver,” Jackson said. “... It’s so fun playing with these guys. The big catches guys are making all over the field, Philip has confidence in us. It’s really what this offense is based on, guys getting up the field.”
    Turner runs the same offense he has always and would be running with shorter receivers. But he, too, knows what he has and dials long distance when the time is right.
    “The acrobatic ability, the hand-eye, the ability to jump, hanging in the air is the best I’ve been around,” said Turner, a coach in the NFL since 1985. “When you have three guys like that, it’s tough. Every team has some corners that aren’t the biggest guys. We work hard to get those matchups.”


    A look at the stats for each of the Chargers’ three leading receivers:

    Player (height) Rec. Yds. Avg. TD

    Antonio Gates (6-4) 79 1,157 14.6 8

    Vincent Jackson (6-5) 68 1,167 17.2 9

    Malcom Floyd (6-5) 45 776 17.2 1
  2. bigmike.x.09

    bigmike.x.09 Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    someone send this to the jets board, the female soul patch.
  3. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

    Dec 27, 2005

    This makes me VERY happy!!


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