While the San Diego Chargers look to move forward from yet another disappointing playoff loss, the holdout of Pro Bowler wide receiver Vincent Jackson has left a dark cloud over the sunny confines of Chargers Park in Murphy Canyon.
Although they were offered one-year contract tenders for this season, Jackson and fellow malcontent Marcus McNeill are both holding out in hopes of getting lucrative long-term deals. Both players are reportedly willing to sit out anywhere from the first 10 games or even the entire season as a sign of protest. Chargers officials have also threatened to place both players on the Roster Exempt List in an attempt to speed up their returns. Both players have until tomorrow to sign their offers or will risk missing three games after they have signed.
Even if Jackson signs by tomorrow, he will still miss the first three games of the season due to a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. If Jackson is lost for an extended period of time, Philip Rivers will need another wideout to step up.
Enter Malcom Floyd.
Floyd, the team's No.2 receiver, has blossomed from practice squad player to a legitimate deep threat. Though Jackson's holdout leaves a big void in the San Diego's receiving crops, Floyd plays similiarly. Floyd is built like Jackson, with both players listed at 6-foot-5 and close to 230 pounds. Like Jackson, Floyd's size advantage and athleticism allows him to out-jump opposing cornerbacks on deep throws as well as use his bigger body to shield the ball from defenders. Because of their size and speed, both players are difficult to bring down.
Since becoming a starter following the release of Chris Chambers last season, Floyd has also been statistically similar in some areas to Jackson. Although Floyd only started nine games last season, he racked up 45 catches and 776 yards. While Jackson clearly outpaced Floyd in touchdowns and receiving yards per game, they were close in other areas. Both receivers averaged 17.2 yards per catch, tied for 15th in the league. Eighty-percent of Floyd's catches went for first downs compared to 85.3% of Jackson's receptions. Floyd also had 13 catches for 20+ yards and 5 for 40+ yards while Jackson had 17 and 4, respectively. With his deep-play abilities, Floyd can open up the middle of the field for Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates and keep defensive backs busy.
Floyd's single touchdown last season can also be explained by the presence of Gates and Jackson. Rivers looked to Gates then Jackson in the red zone, limiting Floyd's opportunities. With Jackson gone, Floyd immediately moves up the ladder and should see his scoring chances increase as defenses concentrate on Gates as well as speedy tailback Darren Sproles and prized rookie running back Ryan Mathews in passing red zone situations.
Add it all up and it's not inconceivable that Floyd will step up and give the Chargers solid production. Whether it's just three games or the entire season, Floyd should be a reasonable facsimile of Jackson. Although Jackson will be missed, the Chargers aerial attack should not drop off considerably with Gates and Floyd holding down the fort until his return.