Oakland Raiders: Ranking The AFC West By Position Group – Tight Ends

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20: Tight end Clive Walford
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20: Tight end Clive Walford /
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Oakland Raiders
Oakland Raiders /

2. Los Angeles Chargers

For so many years, the Chargers have had one of the premier tight ends in the league in Antonio Gates. His speed, power, and athleticism made him a nightmare matchup for linebackers around the league and gave opposing defenses fits.

Even now though, entering his fifteenth professional season, Gates is still a very effective threat in the Chargers offense. Just last year, he posted 53 receptions for 548 yards and seven touchdowns. Even now, as a shadow of his former self, Gates is still putting up some numbers.

And now, they have a young guy who Gates has taken under his wing and has begun to groom to take over his spot in the Chargers offense – Hunter Henry.

Henry proved last season – as a rookie – that he’s got the talent and ability to step into Gates’ considerable shoes. He posted 36 catches for 478 yards. Even more impressive is that of those 36 receptions, eight of them went for touchdowns. Henry is most certainly a very viable red zone threat for these Chargers.

What remains to be seen is how the Gates/Henry 1-2 punch will be deployed under new HC Anthony Lynn‘s regime. But if they have a lick of sense in their heads, they will continue using them as other coaching staffs have – which is to devastating effect.

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Gates is very clearly, on the downside of his career. He’s far closer to the end than he is the beginning. But he seems to have found a very solid heir in Henry. And it’s a pair that will terrorize the division – and the league – as long as Gates is able to lace them up.

Henry is still learning and Gates is in decline – but they still give the Chargers the second best tight end unit in the AFC West.