By now most Chargers fans know the story of wide receiver Dontrelle Inman. He was undrafted out of Virginia, went to training camp with Jacksonville, ended up in Canada with the Toronto Argonauts for two seasons, signed on with the Chargers in 2014, earned a spot on the team with a great preseason, worked his way in to the rotation, and is now a starter.
What you might not know about Dontrelle Inman is his pass catching ability (38 catches, 527 yards, 2 TD this season) might not be his best attribute. Inman is one of the best blocking wide receivers in the NFL. On a lot of Melvin Gordon’s long runs this season it’s Inman out in front keeping a defensive back out of the way.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” said Inman, who said his blocking skills really kicked up during this year’s training camp. “My favorite player growing up was Hines Ward. That’s all he used to do was just smash people and block block block. So it’s just the little things that nobody sees that make a big difference.”
After Sunday’s 21-13 win over Houston, where Inman had six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers praised Dontrelle for his reliability, a trait that helped get Inman to the NFL in the first place.
“That’s the number one thing I pride myself on because if you look at a wide receiver description that’s what it is,” says Inman. “Being dependable, being the guy who’s where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there, and ultimately just making the play.”
Part of the reason for Dontrelle’s development can be attributed to another San Diego wideout. Injured receiver Stevie Johnson, who has missed the season after a knee injury in training camp, shared some of his secrets for getting open with his teammate.
“The first couple of weeks me and Stevie would text back and forth before the game, after the game. He would tell me hey, you got open, but it would be a lot easier if you were a little more patient. Just remember, once you think you’re open just wait just a little bit longer and you can see the difference in separation.”
Once the lesson took root, Inman began to blossom. Over the season’s first six games he averaged two catches and 29 yards. Since then he’s averaged five catches and 69 yards an outing. A few other high-profile Chargers have also noticed the improvement.
“Antonio (Gates) says the same thing. He says ‘I see you being patient now.’ He says that’s all it is, like in the red zone. Antonio has so many touchdowns in the red zone because he’s patient. People don’t know what he’s going to do until he hits you with it. He hits you with the move and then it’s too late.”
It took Dontrelle Inman six years to become a full-time NFL starter. Patience would seem to be one of his virtues.