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There's more to Chargers at tight end than Gates

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    6:55 p.m. August 26, 2009
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    Bill Center

    SAN DIEGO – When you think of tight end and the Chargers, rightfully the first name that comes to mind is five-time Pro Bowler Antonio Gates.

    But that's not where the discussion stops.

    With Brandon Manumaleuna and Kris Wilson supporting Gates, tight end is one of the Chargers' more versatile positions.

    “We've got a lot of interchangeable parts and a lot of versatility at the position,” Manumaleuna said earlier this week.

    “It will be interesting to see how we're used.”

    The only thing that's certain is that they will be used. Toward the end of last season, the Chargers ran some three tight-end sets.

    Manumaleuna is now listed as a fullback as well as a tight end on the depth chart. And Wilson was a starter at the same position during his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers seems happy with the plethora of tight ends.

    “There's no question that Brandon was, and definitely could be, a starter in this league,” Rivers said. “And Wilson has played a lot of ball, so they all are great complements in the passing game.

    “And they are different than Gates, bringing a lot of value to our football team.”

    Manumaleuna, of course, has been a vital part of the Chargers for three seasons and his role will expand this year with his backfield duties.

    “We know what Brandon means, you know, so much in the run game,” Rivers said. “But you look back over the past two or three years and the third-down conversions he's made. You know, you've got Gates, and Vincent (Jackson) and (Chris) Chambers and all these guys running up and down the field.

    “Then you find Brandon on a little hook or a check down, and he rumbles and stumbles to get some first downs, and he knows his role, heck of a teammate, and really a big part of our offense.”

    Wilson is on all the coverage and return teams while Manumaleuna is also a special teams regular.

    When asked about his position this week, Wilson smiled and said, “Just put me in.” Preference: “Playing.”

    Wilson is not being cocky. He's not demanding the ball.

    “When you are playing behind a Hall of Famer, you have to create opportunities to get onto the field,” said Wilson. “You have to wear more than one hat.

    “I'm just a football player who is listed as a tight end. I'll play anywhere, just somewhere.”

    Gates is not the first potential Hall of Fame tight end that Wilson has played behind. Before Gates, there was Tony Gonzalez at Kansas City for four seasons.

    “I've learned a lot from both,” said Wilson, a 2004 second-round pick of the Chiefs who signed with the Chargers before last season after being released by the Eagles.

    After appearing in only three regular season games in 2008, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Wilson started both the Chargers' postseason games.

    “I was excited by the opportunity of getting into the mix here on a very talented team,” said Wilson, an economics major at Pitt who also speaks Portuguese and plans to seek an MBA following the conclusion of his playing career.

    “It might look like an unusual situation with three tight ends. But it's been good for me. It provided me an opportunity to take my game to a higher level.

    The 6-foot-2, 295-pound Manumaleuna was a fourth-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2001 out of Arizona. He came to the Chargers on April 30, 2006, in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.

    Manumaleuna sees ample opportunity for everyone.

    “We're all viable targets. Maybe teams won't be able to focus on Antonio as much. If they do, there will be opportunities. Other teams are going to have a lot on their plates. And Kris is a real good blocker.

    “I don't know all the options, two tight ends, blockers, all of us in there . . . it's going to be interesting.”

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