CARSON, CA-Seventy-four yards and a cloud of dust. Last year in his first full season with the Los Angeles Chargers, wide receiver Travis Benjamin showed signs of the type explosiveness that could strike fear in defensive backs. His electric speed makes him a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
But in comparison to the season that he had with the Cleveland Browns before he joined the Chargers, it was somewhat of a less productive year for the speedy wideout. In 2016, Benjamin caught 47 passes for 677 yards for the Chargers in 14 games. The year prior year with the Browns, Benjamin hooked on 68 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games.
But then free agency opened a better door for Benjamin to consider: play for a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Philip Rivers or keep going through the mediocre quarterback shuffle in Cleveland. That was sort of a no-brainer for Benjamin, who signed a multi-year deal with the Chargers in 2016.
“First and foremost, this team is on the verge of always competing and being better,” Benjamin said. “Philip Rivers…I knew that if I would have gotten with a team with a good quarterback who love to sling it around, it would be good for me and my family. The years and the success that PhiI(ip) has had, you don’t need to have a conversation with anyone. I saw the Chargers with an offer on the table; it was a done deal.”
Having gone through the quarterback musical chairs with the Browns, Benjamin said stability, as well as the consistent high-level of play of Rivers, sold him on hooking up with the Chargers.
“He’s amazing, just the consistency he’s had as a quarterback,” said Benjamin.
The versatile Benjamin gives the Chargers good bang for their buck as an astute kickoff and punt returner as well as his wide receiver duties, though last season might be considered as an abbreviation to what he can do on special teams.
In 2016, Benjamin only accounted for 59 yards in moving the chains on special teams. During his four seasons with Cleveland, he managed to pile up a lot more than that. So, this season is like a re-boot for Benjamin.
“I’m looking to have a bounce-back season,” Benjamin said. “The sky’s the limit for me on offense and special teams. I’m healthy this year, having a great camp so far, and can’t wait until the season to start.”
The sixth-year player have been working hard during the Chargers training camp to redeem himself from his off-year. With first round pick Mike Williams out of training camp and possibly longer, Benjamin’s ability to stretch the field with his speed could be a great compliment to starters Keenan Allen and Dontrelle Inman.
With another year under his belt in offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s schemes, Benjamin says the comfortability is certainly there now.
“I’m way more comfortable,” said Benjamin. “I’m more healthier this season. Hopefully it will turn out to be good for us.”
Benjamin didn’t waste time showing off that comfort zone and his jet speed in the Chargers first preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. With the first units already off the field, Benjamin raced right past a Seattle defender and hit paydirt on a 74-yard touchdown strike from Kellen Clemens late in the first quarter of the Chargers’ 48-17 defeat to the Seahawks.
Besides quarterback Philip Rivers’ 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates on the game’s opening series, Benjamin’s pass-and-catch for the Chargers second touchdown for the game was the lone bright spot for the home team. It was pretty significant, too.
The Clemens-to-Benjamin touchdown was the longest Chargers scoring pass in the preseason since 2006. Benjamin finished the game with two catches for 89 yards and that long touchdown. That would equate to 44.5 yards per catch. After a training camp practice, Benjamin stated that his mindset was to do one or two things when he catches the football this season.
“Each and every time that I touch the ball, it will either a first down or a touchdown,” said Benjamin. “That’s my mentality going into the season.”