An opportunity is there for the taking, and the young Chargers wideouts know it.
There has been a big four in recent seasons with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams seeing the lion’s share of reps at wide receiver.
While the former three return and once again figure to have a major role, Tyrell Williams’ departure means someone needs to step up and fill his shoes as a reliable, steady weapon for Philip Rivers.
The good news is there are several intriguing options the Bolts believe are primed to rise to the occasion. In fact, there are five who have already spent parts of the past few seasons with the franchise, soaking up as much knowledge and improving their game for this very opportunity. They include Dylan Cantrell, Geremy Davis, Justice Liggins, Andre Patton and Artavis Scott.
Rivers, for one, can’t wait to see who rises to the occasion.
“I think you love to see them compete and see kind of how it shakes out,” he remarked. “I think you pull for all of them. You’re pulling for us. It will be fun to see that competition throughout training camp and how those guys continue. That’s a close room, too. They all pull for one another. It’s a neat dynamic. It’s one that’s probably hard to explain and understand. You have guys fighting for a couple spots, but yet they all pull for one another. It’s pretty cool to see.”
While each player will be under the microscope, all eyes will certainly be on Cantrell. Last year’s sixth-round draft pick flashed early in training camp before a leg injury cost him the entire preseason. He began the year on the Bolts’ practice squad before being elevated to the active roster late in the year.
Nonetheless, he hasn’t logged any game action in nearly two calendar years as the last time he suited up was for the Texas Tech Red Raiders back in 2017.
So, what are Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s impressions of the 6-3, 226-pound wide receiver thus far this spring?
“He’s been a year in,” Whiz began. “He got the benefit of being around on the practice squad, running a lot of reps. He’s doing a good job with his assignments and lining up and getting to where we need him to get to, he just hasn’t had a lot of opportunities with the ball coming to him yet. When you look at it and you say he didn’t have a lot of catches, well, that’s just the way it’s gone. I think it’s going to be one of those things as we go even into training camp when you get to see him do some things and then in the preseason games. Last year, he really showed some flashes as we progressed through camp, so we’re hoping to see that same thing.”
The same could be said of Scott.
The Clemson Tigers’ all-time receiving leader, the 5-11, 195-pound wideout showed out last training camp and preseason. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending injury during the team’s final exhibition game, which is a shame since Head Coach Anthony Lynn later remarked Scott had done enough to make the 53-man roster.
Still, despite not playing in a meaningful football game since late in the 2016 season, the Chargers are clearly high on Scott’s potential.
“He’s made plays,” Whisenhunt noted. “I think the only thing with Artavis is just being available. We want to be able to put him in situations to be able to see if he can be successful because we’re looking for those guys. When you lose a guy or two and you’re trying to replace them, we feel like Artavis has the ability to do that, but we have to see him do it and that only comes from getting those reps. From the time that he’s been in there, in the last week or so when he’s been getting some reps, you see a lot of things you like. He has to continue to build off of that.”
The most experienced member of this group is Davis, who appeared in 14 games for the Chargers in 2018. He emerged as one of the team’s best blocking wideouts, springing several of the Bolts’ biggest runs of the year. In addition, the 6-3, 211-pound Davis proved to be one of L.A.’s best special teamers, ranking third on the team with 13 tackles in the kicking game. He now looks to earn a bigger role on offense, similar to what he had during his storied career at UConn when he set school records in career receptions (165) and yards (2,292).
“We got a lot of faith in (Geremy),” Allen said. “We’ve known what he can do, but he hasn’t (had a chance in games) really. He’s strong. I’m excited to see (him compete).”
Meanwhile, Patton has been a member of the Bolts’ practice squad two years running. Originally inked as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers in 2017, Patton played four seasons for the Scarlet Knights, catching 90 passes for 1,164 yards and 10 touchdowns in 44 games with 27 starts.
A physical 6-2, 200-pound target, he’s flashed during training camp and the preseason each year he’s been with the team. Patton showed glimpses in 2017, catching three passes for 30 yards before an even more impressive 2018 exhibition when he hauled in nine passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Finally, Liggins is another big target who developed behind the scenes in 2018. He originally signed with the Chargers after impressing enough as a non-contract attendee at rookie minicamp to earn a deal. The 6-1, 209-pounder spent the entire preseason with the Bolts before spending most of the fall on the team’s practice squad. Liggins began his career with the Indianapolis Colts after playing collegiately at Stephen F. Austin State University, where he hauled in 102 passes for 1,116 yards and eight TDs in 36 games.
“This offseason, Geremy has been in there with us quite a bit,” Rivers summed up. “Artavis has been in there with us quite a bit. You’ve seen Andre, Justice and Dylan make some plays… It’s going to be a challenge to kind of see who’s going to fill (Tyrell Williams’) shoes and go. Obviously, with Travis, Mike and Keenan, you know what the expectation is from those guys. After that, we’re going to see what happens.”
At the same time, while Cantrell, Davis, Liggins, Patton and Scott all spent time with the Bolts in some capacity in recent years, the team also has a pair of talented undrafted free agents also looking to make their mark.
They include Jason Moore and Fred Trevillion.
Moore is a 6-3, 213-pound product out of Findlay who was a touchdown machine in college. The big, physical target hauled in 39 TD catches over his four-year collegiate career. He also caught 204 receptions for 3,217 yards, with his top season coming in 2016 when he snared 71 passes for 1,115 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Trevillion is a 6-2, 200-pound speedster out of San Diego State who signed with the Chargers earlier this month. He began his career on defense for the Aztecs before switching to wide receiver for Southwest Mississippi Community college. Trevillion returned to San Diego State a year later in 2017, totaling 34 receptions for 925 yards and five touchdowns in his FBS career. The wideout is known for his big-play ability, averaging 27.2 yards per catch, which led college football among any player with at least 22 receptions.