Elite tight ends meet on Sunday

The story within the story as the Chargers prepare to take on the Browns is the pending showcase of two of the game's elite tight ends.

Two-time Pro Bowl selection Antonio Gates leads his team with 384 receiving yards and four touchdown catches, while Kellen Winslow is best on his squad with 393 receiving yards and three scores.

Both players have a lot in common. Each has soft hands, excellent body control and the desire to be the best. There are also plenty of differences between the two.

"I don't think we are alike at all except for the speed factor," said Winslow. "He plays basketball out there and uses his body well. I compare myself to (Jeremy) Shockey or someone like that. He's a good player." Gates is a soft-spoken player who lets his play speak for him; he holds the league record for most touchdowns in a season by a tight end with 13. Winslow, on the other hand, is a brash player who is best known for his poor motorcycle-riding abilities and for thoughtlessly likening himself to a soldier.

Winslow is almost as explosive on the field as he is off it, meaning the Chargers will have to prepare diligently for him this week.

"I think Winslow is a great athlete who can run extremely well," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "His ability to come out of breaks with quickness probably sets him apart from a lot of tight ends. Even with his size, he is able to drop his weight and change direction well."

Many have been tempted to compare Winslow's numbers this season to Gates' and to conclude that the two are comparable players. That logic is severely flawed, however. It is easy to put up huge numbers on a struggling team. For one thing, bad teams fall behind quickly and are forced to go pass-happy out of desperation. Also, it allows players like Winslow to rack up huge stats during garbage time against prevent defenses.

Browns coach Romeo Crennell, for one, believes Winslow can be every bit as good as his inflated numbers.

"There are a lot of good tight ends in the NFL. He is proving that he can be among them," said Crennell of Winslow. "It's still early and we have a lot of season left to play. If he can maintain his continuity, then maybe we can say that."

The Browns seem to believe that Winslow can become a better player than Gates. Then again, that is the same team that once believed Gerard Warren was a better draft pick than LaDainian Tomlinson.

Kellen Winslow may very well be the Browns most talented player. But to steal a line from the movie "Waiting", being the most talented player on the Browns is like being the smartest kid with Down syndrome.

Hopefully, Winslow can learn a thing or two by watching Gates this weekend. Gates may not be a warrior, but he is the game's best tight end.


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