San Diego Chargers: Should Ladarius Green start?

San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green, a 4th rounder in the 2012 draft, has the size, speed and playmaking ability to be the next great tight end in the NFL.

The issue is Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, who has been the man in San Diego since 2003. But Green, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound University of Louisiana-Lafayette product, has certainly come on strong the last two weeks and could be instrumental for Phillip Rivers and the passing game with every week becoming a fight for the playoffs.

It’s not that Gates has played poorly or has had a bad year. On the contrary, he’s accumulated some nice stats so far this season. He leads the team with 59 receptions and is second in yards with 685, to go along with 3 TDs. He has played well, and still commands a double team from the defense, but he has certainly lost a step or two off the line, which is expected for the 33-year-old, who is in his 11th season. However, the experience Gates has does provide the 23-year-old Green with invaluable knowledge of the game and how to be a professional on and off the field.

San Diego Chargers

Chargers Tight End Antonio Gates has had a Hall of Fame career, but should the Chargers start thinking about the future? (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America)

If you caught that great game on Sunday with the Chargers’ crazy finish at Arrowhead against the Chiefs (a game that has saved the Chargers’ season for now), you probably saw the Rivers-to-Green completion for a 60-yard touchdown. After the 20-yard catch across the middle, he turned on the afterburners, also called 4.4 speed, and went another 40 yards for the go ahead touchdown. It shows the speed Green is capable of that can create a huge mismatch on any linebacker, just like Gates has been doing for years. Green is two inches taller than Gates and has the quickness off the line that has been lacking this year for Gates.

Green has accumulated 14 receptions for 309 yards, which means he’s averaging 22.1 yards per catch this year. Over the past two games he has 7 catches for 161 and the TD. He is finding himself involved more and more in the offense and this could prove vital with another weapon for Rivers down the stretch. With the emergence of rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen putting together an Offensive Rookie of the year type campaign, the future of the receiving corps looks great for the Chargers.

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I think the Chargers need to continue to play both Gates and Green, especially in two tight end sets when the defensive will be forced to double team Gates and could leave open huge holes in the defense for Green to take advantage of with his excellent speed and size. Green will be ready to step in and pick up exactly where Gates leaves off, leaving the tight end position for the Chargers in good hands for another decade.

Shout out to Antonio Gates, who on Sunday became the fourth TE in NFL history with 700 receptions and 9,000 yards. He has been a staple of the San Diego Chargers, one of the best to ever play and will always be a fan favorite in S.D.