Way back in 2004 when Antonio Gates exploded on the scene in just his second season—as seemingly everyone predicted—there was only one man standing in his way.
That man was Reche Caldwell. Caldwell went on a romp that year and was well on his way to 1,000 yards receiving—until he tore his ACL on the Atlanta Falcons' synthetic turf.
Up until that point, Antonio Gates was jockeying for position and catching a lot of passes at tight end, but was not nearly at superstar status. Without his trusty Caldwell, then-Chargers QB Drew Brees starting looking to Gates as his primary target. The tight end responded by dominating defenders, and challenged his AFC West brethren Tony Gonzalez as the top tight end in the league.
Gates' ridiculous, three-touchdown performance against the New Orleans Saints served notice to the rest of they league that they had to start covering this guy.
Reche Caldwell never regained his 2004 form after coming back the following season.
Now, Gates is out of the picture with a toe injury and Philip Rivers is going to start looking more to Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson.
Vincent Jackson has all the talent in the world. He is huge, standing at six-foot-five, and weighing 237 lbs. He runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds, and has a 39” vertical leap.
Jackson is also one of the best run blocking wide receivers in the NFL.
Vincent Jackson needs to step up big against the Colts this weekend. This is his chance to grab the spotlight and he needs to seize the opportunity.
He has already made several huge plays over the course of his career, but now that the Chargers have made it to the second round of the playoffs, it is time for him to step it up a notch.
Yes, he made big plays against the Titans—but if he does the same thing against the Colts, that’s coming through in the clutch.
If the Chargers offensive line gives Rivers as much time as they did against the Titans, forget what the talking heads say—look for a big play or two from Jackson.
It won't be easy for him against Indy's great defense—but it won't be easy for Indy either.