Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd, the two starting receivers for the 2011 Chargers, are 6-foot-5. One of the Chargers' favorite plays over the past couple of years has been ‒ and it probably sounds different when called in the huddle ‒ "Throw the ball really far and really high and let one of the tall guys catch it." Jackson in particular was really good at this.
One guesses that this play won't be relied upon as heavily now that Jackson has moved on to Tampa Bay.
To replace him, the Chargers signed 6-2 former Saint Robert Meachem, who has been productive, if not spectacular. Over the last three years, he's been remarkably consistent, with totals in each of those years between 40 and 45 receptions and 620 and 722 yards.
They're not Vincent Jackson numbers, but no one would expect them to be. New Orleans has had so many weapons, that it's not been easy to carve out a spot. Drew Brees has his preferred No. 1 target in Marques Colston, and Jimmy Graham has emerged as an elite tight end, and after that, Brees was very good at spreading the ball around. Meachem, with the balls available to him, was at least respectable. As Doug Farrar pointed out, he's been very efficient.
As good as Jackson was, one of the things that's hamstrung the Chargers over the past couple of years has been missed games by wide receivers. Malcom Floyd missed a significant amount of time last season with a concussion. Jackson has missed time with a holdout and a suspension. Philip Rivers has thrown a lot of balls over the past couple of years to guys like Seyi Ajirotutu, Legudu Naanee, Patrick Crayton and Vincent Brown.
Meachem, on the other hand, hasn't missed a game over the last three years. There's no one out there the Chargers were going to sign who was going to single-handedly replace Jackson's production. But two guys? Meachem and Laurent Robinson, perhaps? Add that to Floyd, Antonio Gates and Brown, who looked to have a nice upside in his rookie year, and maybe the Chargers receiving corps isn't in such bad shape.
No one's rebuilding the Air Coryell days, with John Jefferson, Wes Chandler and Charlie Joiner. But what if the Chargers can replace one Vincent Jackson with two reliable, productive guys ‒ not superstars like Jackson, but producers? Is it possible that life would get easier for Philip Rivers if he knew that he'd always have two or three quality receivers on the field, as opposed to hoping that Floyd or Jackson would be available in a given week, and after them, a significant drop-off in ability?
Jackson got a lot of money from Tampa Bay, and when he's at his best, he deserves every nickel. But for the Chargers, with so many holes to fill, maybe quantity over quality isn't the end of the world, either.