4 San Diego Chargers Who Must Step Up After Vincent Brown's Injury

Ryan PhillipsContributor IIIAugust 20, 2012

4 San Diego Chargers Who Must Step Up After Vincent Brown's Injury

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    Second-year receiver Vincent Brown appeared headed for a big year with the San Diego Chargers. The athletic San Diego State product showed a ton of promise as a rookie and looked like a budding star. 

    Brown broke his left ankle during Saturday night's preseason contest against the Dallas Cowboys and has since had surgery to repair the fracture. He'll be out at least eight weeks.

    The San Diego offense took a big hit with Brown going down, and now the rest of the roster must fill the void left by his absence. 

    The following are four players who must step up with Brown out.

Robert Meachem

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    The Chargers signed Meachem away from the New Orleans Saints this offseason in hopes that he could be a legitimate deep threat to help quarterback Philip Rivers stretch the field. Now he has to step up and be a lot more.

    Meachem has just one reception for eight yards in two preseason games. His chemistry with Rivers is still a work in progress. After inking a four-year, $25.9 million deal in March, he must become more than just a deep threat with Brown on the sidelines.

    The Tennessee product hauled in 129 passes for 1,980 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past three seasons in New Orleans. He has immense potential and at 27 years old he appears ready to take his career to the next level.

    Meachem has to step up and legitimize himself as the Chargers' No. 2 receiver behind Malcom Floyd. He has to get on the same page as Rivers rapidly now that Brown is gone. He has to prove he is worth the $14 million in guaranteed money the Chargers gave him this offseason.

Eddie Royal

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    Royal was an under-the-radar signing this offseason, as Chargers general manager A.J. Smith pried him away from the Denver Broncos with a three-year, $13.5 million contract. 

    The 26-year-old Royal has struggled over the past three seasons after exploding onto the scene with a monster rookie season in 2008. That year he hauled in 91 passes for 980 yards and five touchdowns. Clearly he was most effective as a slot receiver, not a No. 1 or No. 2 guy. That's why he's such a great fit in San Diego.

    Head coach Norv Turner has to be salivating over the prospect of having Royal darting across the middle out of the slot. The Virginia Tech product has been struggling with a groin injury in training camp, but once he gets involved he could be incredibly dangerous for the Chargers. 

    Royal has to be reliable in that role and make himself an integral part of San Diego's offense, especially with Brown out.

Antonio Gates

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    Gates has had issues staying healthy over the past four seasons, but so far this preseason he looks healthy and has been outstanding. In fact, Gates looks primed for a huge season. 

    He is Rivers' favorite target and it isn't really close. Expect the 32-year-old to get a ton of action this season. With Brown out, there is a chance the Chargers will split Gates out wide more often than in the past, at least until Meachem gets on the same page with Rivers. 

    Gates is a leader and he has to take command of all the team's pass-catchers and motivate them to improve rapidly. He is the team's true No. 1 receiver and guys like Meachem and Royal will follow his lead.

Philip Rivers

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    Rivers has completed 16 of 20 passes this preseason, but has thrown three interceptions and just one touchdown. Rivers threw a career-high 20 interceptions last season and many believed he displayed diminishing arm strength. 

    He has not done anything to dispel those fears during the preseason. 

    Rivers is only 30 years old, which means he should be in the prime of his career. He needs to find his arm strength and fast. Rivers is the heart of San Diego's offense and even without Brown he should be able to keep the engine revving. He has as much talent around him as he ever had, and that should lead to a big year for him.

    If the North Carolina State product can get back into form this year, Brown's injury will just be a blip on the radar.