SAN DIEGO -- Yes, we've heard this before. For a second straight season, the San Diego Chargers believe tight end Ladarius Green is set up to have a breakout season. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Green is one of the most athletic players in the NFL at his position. But injuries and inconsistent play led to a dip in production in 2014. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, the pressure is squarely on Green to produce in 2015.
Lock: Antonio Gates, Green
The good: A future Hall of Famer, Gates had one of his most productive seasons in the NFL at the age of 35 last season, finishing with 69 catches for 821 yards and a team-high 12 touchdown catches. Gates heads into the final year of a contract that will pay him $5 million in total compensation in 2015. If the Kent State product can stay healthy, he could continue to play beyond 2015. He'll wait until the end of the year to make that decision. Phillips and Johnson will serve as the team’s blocking tight ends, with Johnson also playing fullback for the Chargers. Paulson showed good hands during offseason work but will have to prove he can contribute as a blocker in the running game. Miller, Parker and Frohnapfel also had their moments during minicamp. Tight end is one of the deepest positions on San Diego's roster.
The bad: With both Gates in Green in contract years, the future is uncertain at the position. The Chargers need to find a couple of developmental prospects in case neither player returns in 2016. According to ESPN Stats & Information, San Diego averaged a league-low 2.48 yards per carry running the football in two-tight-end sets, so the blocking has to dramatically improve for San Diego to effectively use that personnel grouping.
Bottom line: The Chargers ran two-tight-end sets on 275 snaps in 2014, which was No. 22 in the NFL. But with slot receiver Eddie Royal joining the Chicago Bears in free agency, San Diego should use two-tight-end sets more often, which means Green will get more time on the field. “I’ve got a lot to work on, from route-running, to blocking and catching -- everything,” Green said when asked about his focus this offseason. “ could have been a lot better. I was hurt. I’ve got to try and stay healthy. And I’ve got to try and do what I can for the team. I’ve still got a lot to improve on.”