Antonio Gates has been tearing up defenses for years. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Out Of The (Antonio)Gates

Antonio Gates did not practice all week, and he’s listed as questionable for tonight’s game because of a foot injury. Whether or not the star tight end plays is a big deal. 

In eight games, Gates is leading his team in receiving, averaging 82.9 yards per game. He’s got nine touchdowns and zero fumbles on the season. 

The former college basketball player creates problems for safeties, corners, and linebackers because of his size and athleticism. At 6-4, 260 lbs., the guy has linebacker size with receiver quickness and hands. Norv Turner has become very creative with how he uses Gates in his many tight end packages. He sends the big man deep to challenge the safeties in addition to the typical routes run by tight ends. 

It looks as if Gates will play tonight. Prior to this injury, he had not missed a game since 2005. That’s a testament to his toughness and brute strength.  Josh McDaniels has said that he’s prepared his team for Gates to be in on every play.   

“We’ve game planned all week and are prepared for him to be out there on every snap,” McDaniels said.   

If Gates doesn’t play or is somewhat limited, the Chargers don’t shy away from using the tight ends. The Broncos certainly have a game plan tailored to stopping the tight end no matter who it is, so the x’s and o’s won’t change that dramatically, but their attention will be a little different if Gates is out there.     

According to McDaniels, should Gates not play, “Our awareness of where he’s at on every snap certainly won’t be the same.”   

While the Broncos will have to be alert as to who the tight end is, they also know that regardless of who it is, if the guy is open, Philip Rivers will find him.   

The Chargers have too many receiving options (running backs included) to focus on whether or not one guy will play.   

This will need to be a team effort on defense to stop the Bolts in all areas.   

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Tags: Antonio Gates Denver Broncos Josh Mcdaniels San Diego Chargers