Gates of ConcernWednesday, September 28, 2011
Perhaps we were blind to the red flags surrounding Antonio Gates’ right foot heading into this season. After all, he's 31, plantar fasciitis is a lingering/debilitating kind of injury and weighing 260-plus pounds certainly doesn’t help.
However, the preseason signs were just too strong to ignore. Plantar fasciitis is often cured by simple rest, which Gates got about eight months of before training camp. And once training camp hit, he was practicing just about every day, stringing together long stints of consecutive workouts. The Chargers and all their observers were fully confident Gates would be fine all year.
But in the Week 2 loss to the Patriots, Gates tore the scar tissue that had built up in his foot. It’s a setback that knocks him back -- how far back no one really knows. Gates was asked if he thinks this is the beginning of the end to his Hall of Fame career. His answer, via the San Diego Union-Tribune:
“No. I think physically you get an idea about where you’re at by going out and playing and running around. Prior to the Patriots game, I felt like I could still be who I am. The way I was running around in New England … Practice wise, I’m running around, I feel fast.”
Still, Gates conceded he is considering shutting it down for 3-5 more weeks in an effort to be at full strength for the Chargers’ trademark stretch run. He’s going to see specialists and admits he wants to avoid the weekly pain and “cycle” of uncertainty. Yikes.
And who is to say that Gates won’t tear the scar tissue again once he comes back? If eight months of rest didn’t make the foot strong, what will 3-5 weeks do? Owners can take solace in the fact that Gates is among the toughest players in the league and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him play effectively through pain often this season. They can also add backup Randy McMichael as insurance, but I wouldn’t expect much.
In the seven games Gates has missed over the last two seasons, McMichael has averaged just 2.4 catches for 27.1 yards with two total touchdowns. He’s simply not that good, even though he plays in a potent passing offense with a quarterback that looks for his tight end in the red zone.
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NEWS OF THE DAY #1
Remember when Steve Slaton was a first-round fantasy pick? That was fun. In the three years since Slaton’s breakout rookie campaign, he has ran for a total of 550 yards in 26 games. And on Tuesday, he was unceremoniously cut in a standard, bottom-of-roster move. Teams like the Cardinals may want to take a flier.
In more important news out of Houston, Arian Foster (hamstring) is fully expected to get the start ahead of Ben Tate this week. He was held out last week as a mere precaution, meaning the Texans will have no qualms about turning him loose. Coach Gary Kubiak has repeatedly said that when you have a guy like Foster, you ride him. That first-round pick you spent is about to pay off. Finally.
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DEPTH CHART QUICK SLANTS
No word yet on Cedric Benson’s suspension appeal. For now, it looks like he will be available for Week 4. Stay tuned. … Jerome Simpson is expected to resume a normal practice schedule this week despite his marijuana issues. Only in Cincy. … The Packers are hinting that Ryan Grant needs more work going forward. … Reggie Bush didn’t line up as a receiver once in Week 3. Bench him. … Percy Harvin was playing 74.5 percent of the snaps before getting sick in Week 3. Solid number. … Julio Jones was shadowed by Aqib Talib Sunday but still put up 115 yards. … The Saints put Garrett Hartley on IR. John Kasay is the man in New Orleans.
INJURY QUICK SLANTS
As expected, the Eagles reportedly believe Michael Vick will play this week. A non-throwing hand injury should not limit him. … Sidney Rice (shoulder) came out of his 2011 debut healthy, but we’re still selling high. … The Cowboys did not update Felix Jones’ status, but owner/GM Jerry Jones didn’t sound worried. … Jason Snelling has a concussion. … Darren McFadden (groin) could have returned to Sunday’s win if needed. He’s fine.
BUY LOW, SELL HIGH
Now is the time to attack the trade market as owners with underperforming squads may be in panic mode. Here are three players I’m buying on this week:
1. Hakeem Nicks: Has faced the competent secondaries of the Redskins and Eagles so far in addition to the Rams. Over the next three weeks, he’ll match up with the Cardinals (Patrick Peterson), Seahawks (Brandon Browner) and Bills. The explosion is coming.
2. Dez Bryant: It’s obvious Bryant is playing hurt. With the bye looming in Week 5, Bryant should be able to emerge 100 percent and ready to roll in Week 6. The Cowboys won’t be silly enough to keep risking him on punt returns going forward -- their backup wideouts don’t even know the plays.
3. Arian Foster: If we can get him at second-round value it’s a steal. As mentioned above, Foster’s hamstring is at 100 percent and he’s the unquestioned starter on a team that prefers to use one back. Ben Tate has been impressive, but coach Gary Kubiak is going to give Foster every opportunity to dominate.
And here are three players I’d be selling if I owned them:
1. Sidney Rice: The fact that Tarvaris Jackson and Rice were able to hook up eight times for 109 yards last week tells us more about the Cardinals’ secondary than it does about the Seahawks’ duo. Rice may be a special talent, but he has recurring shoulder issues and his quarterback is among the most inept in the game. Don’t be surprised if Week 3 ends up as Rice’s best game of the season.
2. Mike Tolbert: By now, everyone should be well aware of the change going on in San Diego’s backfield. The Chargers have decided it’s time to ride Ryan Mathews in goal-line and third-down situations, leaving Tolbert as a mere bit player. Take what you can get.
3. Peyton Hillis: The plan all along was to use Montario Hardesty enough to keep Hillis fresh. Now that Hardesty has shown he is healthy and plenty capable, there’s no reason for the unspectacular Hillis to ram his head into the line 30 times a game anymore. With a diminishing workload, Hillis’ fantasy value will be reduced dramatically.