Floyd’s return gives the Chargers unmatched depth on offense

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All signs point to wide receiver Malcom Floyd playing for the San Diego Chargers in 2014. Floyd injured his neck after a hit in the Week 2 game against the Philadelphia Eagles and was placed on injured reserve shortly after. Floyd has been with the Chargers for the past nine seasons, most of which he has been extremely efficient. If healthy, Floyd will likely play an important role in the offense opposite Keenan Allen, so what should the Chargers be expecting?

From 2009-2012, Floyd averaged 45 receptions and 791 yards, spreading his career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns over three separate years in 2010, 2011 and 2012. While those are exceptional numbers for a No. 2 receiver, Floyd will be turning 33 years old in September and is coming off a major neck surgery, so we should expect those numbers to decline in 2014.

When looking at a normal age curve for a wide receiver, players tend to peak around age-26 or 27 before starting a gradual decline. Floyd has already fallen outside that trend by peaking from age-28 to 31. While Floyd was supposed to be declining, he was putting up some of the best numbers of his career. While that has been great for the Chargers in past seasons, they shouldn’t be expecting that type of production in the future.

Still, even with some regression expected for Floyd’s upcoming season, just having him on the field should be a benefit for San Diego’s offense. In Floyd’s absence, the secondary receivers were Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal, who caught 41 and 47 passes, respectively. Royal ranked 15th in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement and fourth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average for wide receivers, another feat that shouldn’t be expected in 2014.

For the Chargers to be successful on offense, neither Floyd nor Royal have to live up to expectations of past seasons. In the San Diego offense, the No. 2 or 3 receiver is now the fourth or fifth target on a majority of passing plays. Antonio Gates, if we want to talk about players defying age curves, led the team with 77 receptions last year. Danny Woodhead was right behind him with 76 receptions. With both of those players still on the roster and set to play the same roles in the offense, the true secondary receivers for Philip Rivers won’t actually have to be receivers.

What will make the offense more effective is having the depth of players who are able to be efficient receivers on the field as he fourth and fifth options. Usually in many offenses, the fourth option on a pass play is a barely used receiver. If the Chargers enter the 2014 season with Royal or Floyd as the fourth option, they have an advantage over a lot of other offenses in the NFL. Add in rookie Marion Grice, who was the best pass catching running back available in the draft, and a possible breakout season for Ladarius Green at tight end, and the Chargers have the ability to spread the ball around.

This is likely one of the reasons San Diego didn’t feel the need to take a wide receiver early in the draft this year. While the Chargers don’t have flashy names as offensive weapons, they have a useful amount of depth with the ability to be productive while also having one of the best young receivers in the NFL (Keenan Allen). This gives the likes of Tevin Reese some time to develop and fill out before he is forced to carry a workload.

When Gates eventually hits his decline or if Woodhead no longer is on the roster, possibly next season, then having a true No. 2 receiver might become a bigger need for the offense. But right now, having two or three decent options behind Allen will be more beneficial than having a good No. 2.

Upon his return to the field, Malcom Floyd is not going to be the 2010 version of himself, but that shouldn’t be seen as a disappointment. With the current set up for the Chargers offense, Floyd can be a productive and efficient player doing half of what he’s done during his peak seasons. It might seem like a drop off on the stat sheet, but he’ll be just as important for helping the team win.

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