Of course the incomparable superhuman pass catching freak, Antonio Gates leads up this strong crew. Hopefully, the toe is healed up and ready to go in 2009. As I mentioned in my last post, it was an encouraging sign to see them go to him so many times in the first preseason game. Last year, the toe didn't seem to hinder his ability to use his body to get open or make great catches, but it did severely limit his yards after the catch. Remember the days when he would catch an out pass, break one tackle, then sneak down the sidelines for 40 yards? The Cleveland snow game? Some folks thought this toe injury, even though it sounds minor, could be much more career limiting, as other players have in the past not been able to come back from this kind of thing. Watch him in the next preseason games to see if he can run with the ball.
Brandon Manumaleuna is the perfect compliment to Antonio Gates with his strong blocking ability, offensive lineman-like size at 6'2 295, and surprisingly good hands and feet. I'd like to see the Chargers surprise some teams by running the double tight end set more often. Maybe if the defense is better and we can actually get some leads this year, we'll be afforded that luxury. It's also a strong passing set when you have Gates, Manumaleuna, Tomlinson, Jackson, and Hestor on the field...all strong pass catchers.
An intriguing player, Kris Wilson(#88), actually listed as a full back, who started 12 games last season for the Kansas City Chiefs, made some great catches and special teams plays for the Chargers against the Seattle Seahawks last Saturday. Listed at 6'2, 245 he's a bit smaller, but seems like a talented athelete who can back up at tight end or full back. Look for him in the 3rd and 4th quarter of Saturday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.