Breaking Down the Bolts: Tight Ends

Concerned faces rise as Antonio Gates continues to nurse his toe. While questions of his return have mouths yapping, Brandon Manumaleuna readily prepares to shine. The Bolts grabbed two new faces to battle for spots on the roster behind second-year man Scott Chandler. Skirmishes are set to commence as fights for playing time flare up.

Projected Starter

While Antonio Gates still mends a toe injury, causing him to sit out off-season practices, he is expected back on the field to fill the starting role for the Chargers' season opener against the Carolina Panthers. After receiving surgery in February and being given a 4-6 month recovery period, his failure to stay on the predicted path to recovery causes uneasiness.

Gates continued to play for two games following his injury but turned down his starting slot in the AFC Pro Bowl. Starting all 16 games last season, Gates recorded 75 receptions for 984 yards and nine touchdowns. As one of Philip Rivers' main targets, he led all tight ends and ranked fifth overall with 27 third-down catches.

Hot Competition

If Gates is forced to abandon his field duties, Brandon Manumaleuna is ready to hold down the fort. He saw time in all 16 games last season and collected 10 receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown. With an 8.6-yard average from a 6-foot-2, 288-pound body, Manumaleuna is a rare combination of mass and body control.

Manumaleuna is a solid and reliable blocker, lining up all over the field and nailing defenders on the run. He will see plenty of time regardless of Gates' well-being.

Scott Chandler holds the third slot on the roster and looks forward to an expanded role in his sophomore season. While still developing as a blocker, Chandler is a big target (6-foot-7, 265 pounds) with the soft hands to make plays over the middle. He'll need to make an impact on special teams if he's to escape the inactive list.

New Faces

Wade Betschart of Wyoming joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder registered 32 catches for 296 yards during his senior year with the Cowboys. He ranked second in Mountain West Conference for receptions by a tight end or H-back.

Betschart recorded a 32.5" vertical jump and a 9'8" broad jump during his Pro Day, which would have placed him among the top-ten at his position had be attended the NFL Combine. Betschart adds solid depth and is a strong blocker but will need to add bulk to his frame if he wants to compete for Chandler's job.

Click here for an exclusive Q&A with Betschart.

John Tereshinski (6'3", 245 pounds) of Wake Forest joined the Bolts as an undrafted rookie free agent, as well. Marking a breakout senior year with 28 receptions and 355 yards, he nearly doubled his catches from his junior year. If Tereshinski keeps up the momentum, he will be considered for a spot on the practice squad.

Click here for an exclusive Q&A with Tereshinski.

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