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Chargers TE Sperry could take Gates' downfield role

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Recent posts by Eli Kaberon

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Posted Sept. 15, 2011 @ 1:03 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

A team insider told PFW that Chargers 31-year-old TE Antonio Gates can rule out ever being 100 percent healthy for the rest of his career, as a nagging toe injury has taken away some of his speed and athleticism. However, Gates already has shown this season he can be an elite player without being at full strength. His 13 targets in Week One tied for the most in the entire NFL, and his eight receptions led all tight ends.

Gates is no longer the vertical threat he once was, but his ability to find open spaces in the defense and gain yards after the catch still will be vital to the Chargers' offense. Taking his spot as the downfield tight end might be third-stringer Kory Sperry, who never has been a key member of an offense thus far in his three-year career. According to the insider, Sperry gained 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason and improved his route running, making him one of the most improved players in training camp. Though still behind Gates and Randy McMichael on the depth chart, we hear Sperry's role will increase as the season goes along.   

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