The former fourth-round draft choice from Louisiana-Lafayette has played just two seasons in the NFL and is already drawing comparisons to fellow teammate and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, who helped innovate the tight end position in the modern era.
The pass-catching tight end has become a trademark of most offenses across the league, and the ability of these athletic freaks has created many a headache for defensive coordinators. At least six tight ends had 70 or more receptions this past season, and seven finished with more than 800 yards receiving.
When it comes down to it, the evolution of tight ends in the NFL has created an unfair advantage on offense, and the Chargers intend to exploit that advantage now that Green is starting to come into his own.
During his rookie season in 2012, Green played in just four games and spent the better part of the season absorbing knowledge from the sidelines. Observing the work habits of eight-time Pro Bowler Gates was also beneficial to his development in practice.
Green's first catch as a pro came Sept. 16 of 2012 against the Tennessee Titans. He turned a short crossing route into a 31-yard gain and flashed his 4.53 speed in the open field.
In his second season, Green used that open-field speed to make more plays for the Bolts, particularly late in the year. During a three-game stretch against Miami, Kansas City and Cincinnati, Green hauled in a total of nine catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 23.16 yards a catch and posted longs of 35, 60 and 30.
Through 16 games, the second-year tight end averaged 22.1 yards a catch—a testament to his knack for the big play downfield. And in the playoffs, Green had five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Let's take a look at some of Green's highlights last season.
Week 11 @ Miami
Concentration and good hands are undervalued aspects of Green's game, but he utilizes both in this catch as Pro Bowl corner Brent Grimes is draped all over him. Just another example of Green's impressive receiving skills.
Week 12 @ Kansas City
Even the self-proclaimed best corner in football was no match for Green.
On this particular play, Green lines up in the slot and is matched up with former Chiefs corner Brandon Flowers. Green gives Flowers a little double move to the inside, blows right by him for the catch and beats three defenders to the end zone in a foot race. The route is a thing of beauty by the young tight end, but that speed after the catch is going to be a handful for opposing secondaries.
Week 13 vs. Cincinnati
The Bengals pass defense was ranked fifth last season, allowing just over 200 yards a game, but a blown coverage against the Chargers set up Green for an easy 30-yard touchdown grab on this play. Credit Philip Rivers for recognizing the open man and hitting him in stride, but Green is also effective in getting downfield in a hurry to set up the easy score. The last thing you want to give Green is open space to work with.
Wild Card Round @ Cincinnati
Last season, Cincinnati's secondary saw a little more of Green than it had hoped for, as he managed to score in both meetings last season. In this instance, he lines up as a receiver to the far left of the formation and makes the fade to the corner of the end zone look like child's play against the smaller defensive back. Expect the Chargers to utilize Green in the red zone more in 2014.
Why He'll Be Even Better in 2014
Gregg Rosenthal ranked Green ninth on NFL.com's Making the Leap series, which profiles the top 25 players slated to break out in 2014. He highlights new offensive coordinator Frank Reich as one of the big reasons No. 89 will improve his numbers from last season.
Reich's use of the no-huddle will create more opportunities for Green to draw mismatches, and Rivers' control of the offense should continue to set up Green for big plays. Increased playing time will also play a factor. San Diego did not commit to using Green all that much at the beginning of 2013, but that quickly changed when he proved to be a handful for defenders in the second half of the season.
Green's emergence should also translate to San Diego going with more two-tight end sets and stretching the field a little more.
With young, exciting playmakers on offense to look forward to, such as Keenan Allen and Green, the future looks bright in San Diego.
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