- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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Without going too in depth about Vincent Jackson's current situation, it is fair to say that much more will be expected from Malcom Floyd this year if the Chargers are to sustain close to the same level of production from their dangerous passing game.
Of course, Antonio Gates' role should expand as well with Jackson out of the lineup, but so will the attention that opponents give to the star tight end. Gates had foot problems last season that apparently have carried over to the offseason, although neither the Chargers nor Gates seems to be particularly worried.
I do contend that Philip Rivers is now firmly in the top half-dozen quarterbacks in the league. At this stage of his development, Rivers is ready to escalate the play of his receivers around him -- as great quarterbacks do. This is especially true with Rivers' exceptional deep passing, which will complement Floyd's deep abilities well.
Legedu Naanee could step up if he finds himself in a starting role. Naanee is big, will go over the middle with conviction and simply catches everything thrown his way. But any way you slice it, Floyd is going to have to step up his game, and like Gates, he too will be getting extra attention when Jackson is sidelined with his suspension and/or holdout.
Is Floyd capable of acting as a No. 1 wide receiver? I do like his game. He has excellent size and can go up and get the football. He has a wide catching radius and soft hands. He is a formidable red zone target and his touchdown reception numbers should increase going forward. Floyd has developed well lately and should continue to improve in all facets of his game. He is also an excellent blocker who can help spring Ryan Mathews or Darren Sproles for big runs. But he caught more than three passes in only three games last season. Overall, I don't think Floyd is the guy you want as the top option at wide receiver.
Floyd has build-up speed. That isn't to say he isn't fast, but he is a long strider who isn't especially quick. He can get downfield, but he isn't sudden or explosive. That can hinder him coming out of his breaks and as an overall route runner. I worry that as the top wideout, he will struggle to get away from the No. 1 cornerbacks, especially in his division -- namely Brandon Flowers, Champ Bailey and Nnamdi Asomugha. That is a murderer's row of cover men and clearly a far more difficult group to elude through his routes than the second corner on NFC West defenses.
There is no shame in it, but to me, Floyd is the ideal guy to be opposite of a stud wideout -- a guy like Jackson.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
With Vincent Jackson expected to be sidelined, the Chargers will need Malcom Floyd to raise his level of play, Matt Williamson writes.