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Are the Chargers improved at Tight End in 2013?

With just half of last-year's Tight End's returning for 2013, a lot has changed in the personnel surrounding Antonio Gates. Was all this change for the better?

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

There seems to be a trend in the NFL: Tight Ends are being utilized more and more in the passing game. So across the league, Tight Ends are becoming more important than ever before. With Antonio Gates heading into his 11th (!) season, the search for his eventual replacement is picking up a sense of urgency. Do the Chargers have an heir to the Gates throne already on the roster?

2012 In Review

Snap Counts PFF Rating
Player Total Pass Run Block Pass Block Overall Pass Pass Block Run Block
Antonio Gates 890 545 329 16 -1.8 1.6 0.1 -4.7
Randy McMichael 504 88 303 113 -2.2 -4 1.7 1.6
Dante Rosario 193 94 93 6 -1.5 -2.3 0.4 0.6
Ladarius Green 39 33 5 1 0.2 0 0.1 0

As a group, the Chargers Tight Ends were not stellar in 2012.

Antonio Gates' strength was still in his pass-catching, but his performance last year was not exactly noteworthy. Gates' biggest weakness was in run blocking, so naturally that means the team should use him the most of the other TE's in run blocking situations. Oh and opposing defenses had about a 3-in-5 chance in knowing that Antonio Gates being on the field meant it was a passing play.

Ladarius Green didn't see the field much last year, but when he did, he played ... average.

This is a group that appears to have not been utilized to their potential, but then again it's also a group that seems to have been cobbled together.

2013 Tight Ends

No Player Size Age Experience School
85 Antonio Gates 6'4", 255lb 33 11 Kent State
89 Ladarius Green 6'6", 240lb 23 2 Louisiana-Lafayette
83 John Phillips 6'5", 251lb 26 5 Virginia
87 Ben Cotton 6'6", 256lb 24 R Nebraska
88 David Rolf 6'3", 257lb 23 R Utah
81 Dallas Walker 6'6", 235lb 25 R Western Michigan

And just like that, Ladarius Green is now the second–longest–tenured Tight End on the Chargers, in just his second year with the team. With Randy McMichael being cut and Dante Rosario walking, that left just two Tight Ends on the team from last year.

So the Chargers and Cowboys swapped Tight Ends this offseason, giving them Dante Rosario in exchange for John Phillips. According to PFF's ratings, John Phillips is a slight upgrade over Dante Rosario in all metrics except Pass Block. But I can't exactly speak to his Special Teams abilities.

I'm sure the team will miss Randy McMichael's blocking abilities, but hopefully with the changes and apparent improvements to the offensive line, his absence won't be as painful in 2013.

The other three rookies on the roster are all Undrafted Free Agents. Could Telesco be trying to find the next Antonio Gates by diving into the proverbial dumpster? Okay that's not really fair to call all the Rookies dumpster dwellers, especially considering the team could very well carry 4 TEs this year, so at least one of the Rookies will make the team.

Edge: 2013

This was a tough one, because it's hard to give the edge to the current roster when there's so much unknown. But I kind of like the idea of Ladarius Green seeing the field more in his Sophomore season. I don't really know which of the rookies makes the final roster, but I imagine whomever makes the team will automatically become 4th (and/or 5th) on the depth chart.

Unless said Rookie beats out either of the three veterans, in which case he'd be a definite upgrade over last year's group.

With the 2013 TE class getting the edge over 2012, it would appear that in this author's eyes, the entire offense is improved over last year. Do you agree or disagree?