Chargers Review: Wide Receivers

Just one of the groups riddled by injuries, the San Diego Chargers wide receiving corps was kept to a soft whisper that made more sound dropping the rock. When the season began, all the talk was about what David Boston would do to take some of the load off LaDainian Tomlinson. In the end, Boston ran a distant second to the number one reception leader on the team, Tomlinson.

David Boston was signed to a seven-year deal on March 3, 2003. He was seen as a savior to an offense that lacked a true number one. Instead of the savior, the Chargers got the 880-yard receiver. Not number one statistics by a long shot. Boston added 70 receptions and seven touchdowns over 14 games, decent numbers, but alarming flags come with it. In one game Boston caught 14 passes. His longest reception of the season traversed 46 yards. Not quite the breakaway player the Chargers thought they were getting. In fact, Boston added just 286 yards after the catch.

Admittedly, Boston battled a heel injury early in the season and it is debatable whether it ever fully healed. He was also suspended before a game against the Raiders early in the season for numerous offenses. Still, the best way to describe Boston's game is inconsistent. Some times he blocked with ferocity, as in late in the season, while other times you have trouble wondering how a 240 pound receiver who runs a 4.3 can miss a block and not look like he even tried.

The most disturbing statistic on Boston was his 13 receptions against AFC West opponents in four games. In games where the temperature dipped under 60 degrees, four such occasions, Boston had just 10 catches.

A rested offseason should bring Boston back to the elite. He is too talented to be used so little. The fact is he was not used to his full potential. The ball did not get to him when he was open and there is no doubt Boston opened up the underneath routes for other receivers. The other receivers did not respond with catches, making Boston's job harder. The slant route and getting him the ball in space was not in the gameplan. With such a hulking specimen, that needs to be a higher priority. It is a shame that the Chargers were only able to get Boston two receptions on goal to go opportunities, effectively eliminating the fade route so many other teams use.

Eric Parker was the next leading wide receiver. He had a grand total of 18 receptions for 244 yards in seven games. Maybe it is the number two receiver who must "shoulder" the blame.

Parker showed flashes on the field until a shoulder injury caught up with him and forced him injured reserve. He was getting open, but the quarterbacks had a tough time finding him. He remained one of the few receivers who did not drop many passes. He did add three touchdown receptions, showing a knack for getting in the end zone.

If he can remain healthy, Parker would be a solid contributor as a slot receiver. Look for more opportunities for the youngster next season.

Tim Dwight was one of the bigger disappointments of the season. In nine games, Dwight caught just 14 balls for 193 yards and no touchdowns. Versus AFC West opponents, Dwight had just four receptions in three games. Dwight just couldn't seem to find open seams where the quarterbacks could see him.

One of the few plusses to his game was 12 of his 14 receptions went for first downs, proving to be clutch. Dwight was more effective as a runner, adding 88 yards rushing on nine attempts.

Dwight suffered a collapsed lung against the Dolphins that not only ended his season, but could jeopardize his career. The jovial wideout has to take a hard look after succumbing to that type of injury for the second time.

Dwight will not likely be back next season. His production simply does not warrant his contract.

Kassim Osgood, an undrafted free agent, broke on the scene and made a name for himself as a special teams player. When injuries occurred, Osgood got extended playing time. Nerves may have affected his offensive production as he dropped a few balls, but after he was placed into a starting role he started to come on.

"I am just trying to get as much experience as I can this year so going into next year I won't be so nervous like I was at the beginning of this year," said Osgood.

Osgood could very well be the best blocking receiver on the team. Given the propensity for Marty Schottenheimer to make receivers put in time as blockers, it bodes well for his future.

In limited action, Osgood caught 13 passes, two going for touchdowns. Eleven of his receptions went for first downs. Over his last four games, Osgood caught ten balls, a sign of his development. He also was able to stretch the defense with is 21.4 yards per catch average on his way to 278 total receiving yards.

Osgood has plenty to work on this offseason. He must run crisper routes. He must work on his hands, and he must work on his first step off the line. He is still raw and he knows it. He is working with James Lofton this offseason to get better. His main focus is on his route running and acceleration off the line.

"The biggest thing they want me to work on is getting familiar with running the routes," said Osgood. "When you're new to an offense you sort of hesitate throughout your route, it's like tip toeing through things as you're learning."

Osgood, with some hard work, could make a solid number two receiver at some point. Next year, it is more likely he is penciled in as the number three to start.

Reche Caldwell had the toughest year of any receiver. The second year Pro was getting open with regularity, but he could not wrap his mitts around the rock and hold on. It got so bad that Doug Flutie looked to the other side of the field for a receiver at one point in a game. Eventually, it culminated with Caldwell on the outside looking in for reps.

The lowlight of his season came when he ran out of bounds, came back in to make a long reception for a would be touchdown, only to get called for illegal touching and taunting on the same play.

Caldwell was shut out of five of the nine games he played in and ended the season with just eight hauls for 80 yards. It is amazing how far his route running has come since his rookie season, but it does not matter if he cannot snare the ball. Caldwell had more drops on the season than actual catches.

His one game of note, against Green Bay, Caldwell caught four passes for 25 yards.

Caldwell will be back, and this could be his last hurrah. He needs to turn it around or he will be, "just another Florida receiver."

A street free agent comes in just days before the game and leads the team in receiving with 67 yards on four receptions. He is released later in the year. Did we miss something?

It is the story of, "on the team, off the team", Dondre Gilliam. The guy who makes all the catches, remember him?

He played in three games, and had balls thrown his way in two (the last Oakland game does not count for those who remember the LT show) and caught six passes for 95 yards. Five of those six went for first downs. Why was he ever let go in the first place? He does nothing spectacular, but finds ways to make plays.

There is no telling whether the team has the foresight to keep Gilliam.

Grant Mattos and Micah Ross get incompletes as wideouts. There opportunities on the field were limited to special teams with each registering two tackles. As the team looks to upgrade, their pending future may be in doubt.

Up next: Tight ends

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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