When Vincent Jackson decided to hold out from the Chargers, most people figured quarterback Philip Rivers would rely more heavily on tight end Antonio Gates during the season. Even with that knowledge, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the duo would get off to such an incredible start.
Through four games, Philip Rivers is third in the NFL with 1,328 passing yards and second with nine touchdown passes. Tight end Antonio Gates has caught six of the nine touchdowns and leads all receivers and running backs in touchdowns scored. Gates is second amongst tight ends with 24 catches and first by far with 386 yards. He’s averaging nearly 100 yards receiving per game and 21 of his 24 catches have gone for first downs. Only one other player (Brandon Lloyd for Denver) has as many catches of 20 or more yards this year (they both have eight). Gates is dominating like few other tight ends have and is on pace for the best offensive season a tight end has ever had.
- > Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates: 24 rec, 386 yards, 6 TDs, 21 first downs
> Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne: 33 rec, 456 yards, 2 TDs, 25 first downs
> Matt Ryan to Roddy White: 32 rec, 362 yards, 2 TDs, 18 first downs
> Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin: 27 rec, 355 yards, 3 TDs, 19 first downs
As much as A.J. Smith was ridiculed for being the “Lord of No Rings” after not signing Vincent Jackson, it sure looks like he knew what he was doing. Smith signed Gates to a six-year $39.8 million dollar contract in the off-season and Rivers to a seven-year $98.25 million extension last year. He’s not cheap, he just knows who his real MVPs are.