Monthly Archives: August 2017
When wide receiver Travis Benjamin was acquired during the 2016 free-agency period, Chargers fans everywhere were immediately excited.
Formerly with the Cleveland Browns, Benjamin displayed scorching speed and an ability to take the top off of opposing defenses, despite having a plethora of quarterbacks slinging him the rock.
His addition to the Chargers’ receiving corps was a coup, as the team already featured No. 1 wideout Keenan Allen, veteran Stevie Johnson, an up-and-comer in Tyrell Williams, a serviceable option in Dontrelle Inman and tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. The team also had Danny Woodhead coming out of the backfield, along with Melvin Gordon, as well. (Woodhead has since moved on to the Baltimore Ravens while Johnson remains unsigned)
It goes without saying, the team made sure that the weapons surrounding veteran signal-caller Philip Rivers were plentiful, but then, well, you know what happened: the injury bug decided that it would make the Bolts’ last season in San Diego much like the last several, injury-riddled.
Allen went down in the first game of the regular season after making Marcus Peters look like a 38-year-old Booga Peters (I can’t cover the bread with jelly, much less an NFL receiver the caliber of No. 13). This put more pressure on the rest of the pass-catchers, including Benjamin.
The Chargers and general manager Tom Telesco were aggressive in securing the addition of the former Miami Hurricane during the 2016 offseason, signing him to a lucrative four-year, $24 million contract, with a $5 million signing bonus while $13 million was received in guaranteed money.
Well, 47 receptions with 677 receiving yards and four touchdowns later, and, why not, some injury issues, the speedy receiver finished the 2016 campaign with underwhelming numbers.
I have no doubt that Benjamin would agree with me on that.
Moving on to this offseason and preparations for 2017.
With the team’s 2017 first-round selection (former Clemson WR Mike WIlliams) possibly being placed on reserve-injured for the season, and the uncertainty of whether or not KA13 can stay healthy for an entire season, the Chargers’ offense needs Benjamin to be in tip-top shape.
According to his words on the team’s official website, he’s feeling good, and ready to get out there and display his full playmaking ability.
“It feels good to be myself,” Benjamin told Chargers.com. “This whole offseason I was being myself in the weight room. Being myself while rehabbing. Now I’m being myself on the field. I wanted to come back stronger and showcase my talent. Just make sure I’m the best I can be during training camp.”
If Benjamin is in fact healthy and himself, as he mentions above, he adds a dynamic element that the Bolts haven’t had for quite some time.
Do not forget, Benjamin tied for the league-lead in plays over 40 yards… with Tyrell Williams.
He is an electric runner with the ball in his hands, able to outrun most players in the NFL, and his route-running is criminally underrated.
Stat Prediction for Travis Benjamin in 2017:
64 receptions for 981 yards and six touchdowns
Should Benjamin live up to the contract he signed and the expectations of the organization and fans, we could all be witness to some of the most explosive, game-changing plays of the 2017 season.
Needless to say, there are quite a few folks who are hoping for just that; while others, not so much.
Thanks a lot for reading.
Photo Credit: Jake Roth USA Today
One of the biggest questions Chargers fans may have as the team heads into the 2017 season is who will be the team’s No. 1 tight end.
Will it be future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates or second-year phenom Hunter Henry?
The reality is that this isn’t truly a question.
The team which formerly called San Diego home (and trust me, I know how much that still upsets the fanbase) has two stellar men at that position.
Do they switch roles this year? Many anticipate that Henry will become quarterback Philip Rivers’ primary tight end entering the 2017 season.
Antonio Gates has been the stalwart, quintessential and reliable man at tight end who Rivers has been tossing the pigskin to for the last 13 years. Gates signed a two-year contract extension in the 2015 offseason and this year, 2017, may just be the final one in which we will be able to enjoy watching those No. 17-to-No. 85 lobs downfield.
After all, Gates turned 37 years old in June. At age 22, Henry is 15 years his junior and considerably more limber than Gatesy. Both give Rivers big targets in the open field, as Gates is 6’4″ and 255 pounds while Henry is a bit taller at 6’6″ though not as heavy at 248 pounds.
Gates was two years older than Henry when he began his rookie campaign in 2003. Henry started at age 21 and didn’t turn 22 until this past December.
Gates’ rookie stats per NFL.com: 15 games with 24 receptions for 389 yards — 19 of those catches went for first downs while two were touchdowns. He averaged 25.9 yards per game.
Here are Henry’s rookie stats, also per NFL.com: throughout the same number of games, there were 36 grabs totaling 478 yards with the majority of those (30) going for first downs. He tallied eight touchdowns and his average yards per game was 31.9.
Despite a solid rookie campaign filled with the flashes of greatness Henry displayed while at Arkansas, the youngster did have one negative play that we’re all sure he will use to help avoid it happening again: the fumble.
That fumble came late in the Bolts’ final 1:02 against the Indianapolis Colts last September, as Rivers and the offense were battling back from a four-point deficit. At 2nd-and-11 from the Chargers’ own 24-yard line, No.17 throws to No.86. As Henry approaches the 40-yard line the ball is popped out of his grasp by Colts safety Clayton Geathers and fellow safety Mike Adams recovers, ultimately sealing the loss for the Chargers.
As mentor to Henry, the wily veteran Gates shared these words with the then-rookie as spoken to Ricky Henne of Chargers.com:
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he told Henry. “You were making a play and trying to make a bigger play. You were trying. If you weren’t trying, I’d have a problem with that. You played a hell of a game. Don’t let that take anything away from the game that you had. You played a hell of a game.”
Personally, I don’t see that the continued presence of Antonio Gates hampers Hunter Henry in any way. So long as Gates is wearing lightning bolts on his shoulders, the wisdom he can impart to Henry (and the other tight ends on the roster) can only be seen as a positive for all involved.
After all, who wouldn’t want to learn from a future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame player, a teammate on the cusp of breaking the all-time record for touchdowns by a tight end? Absorb all that knowledge, put those tricks to practice. Because before you know it, the season will be over and that source could possibly be hanging up his cleats.
Looking forward to your thoughts!
EDITOR’S NOTE: The answer to the question in the title is no. 🙂