Entering his second season with the Bolts, Travis Benjamin made a promise this offseason.
Now that he’s fully healthy, you are going to see the *real *Travis Benjamin.
“I don’t think I got to really show the type of player I am,” he said this past June. “After surgery, my main focus was to make sure I had my speed back. Last year I couldn’t really show what I could do, so that humbled me. But I’m moving past that and looking forward to showing what I can do this year. I plan on playing how I (know) best.”
So far, Benjamin is living up to his vow.
The speedy wideout opened the season with a 38-yard touchdown against the Denver Broncos, slipping past the vaunted “No Fly Zone” for a fourth-quarter TD. Last week, he led the Bolts in receptions (five) and yards (105), including a 44-yard catch that is the team’s longest play of the season to date.
Overall, Benjamin’s caught nine passes for 159 yards and one TD. Notably, his 17.7 yards per reception is sixth best in the NFL while his three receptions over 25 yards are tied for the fourth most in the league. Benjamin’s 16.0 yards after catch average per reception ranks second in the league after New England Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks.
“It’s very rewarding knowing I can showcase my skill again and do what I can to help the Chargers,” he said. “Each and every time the ball comes my way, I have to put my best foot forward; whatever that takes. I feel like I can this year. (Wide Receivers) Coach Nick (Sirianni) is always coaching us up. When the ball’s in the air, go and get it. Philip (Rivers) is giving me chances, so I have to come through.”
A fully healthy Benjamin also forces defenses to defend him differently. They must respect his speed, always accounting for where he is before the ball is snapped.
“I absolutely see (the secondary) backing off the (line),” he said. “Whenever I’m on the field, you always see the safety or DB pointing out, saying, ‘Stay focused on 12!’ Once they focus on me, it opens things up for everybody else. Hunter, Keenan, Gates, Tyrell; they can all run their routes. and every time I get the chance to take the top off the defense, I want to get those guys open. And then when I do get deep, just make a play if the ball comes my way.”
Still, Head Coach Anthony Lynn is quick to point out there is more to Benjamin’s game than simply vertical passes. Yes, defenders must always be wary of his speed, but the veteran has had success on multiple routes.
“He is a deep threat,” he said. “Defenders have to run. They have to bail. (But) you can throw it to him underneath. He’s caught just as many underneath passes as he has long ones. So he is just that deep threat that you can hit people with sudden impact.”
Some might say Benjamin was the forgotten man heading into the season.
After all, most talk about offensive playmakers focused on the return of Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams building off a 1,000-yard season, the selection of Mike Williams, Antonio Gates’ quest for the all-time tight end TD record, Hunter Henry leading all tight ends in touchdowns a year ago and Melvin Gordon taking another step forward following his first Pro Bowl season.
However, that doesn’t faze Benjamin. He just wants to play his part on offense, whatever that may be.
“We’re all key pieces to the offense. When we’re all healthy and out there ready to go, the sky will be the limit for our offense. There’s a lot of time left in the season, and when we’re all (clicking). Once we get rolling, and start getting (yards after catch) like I know we can, it’s going to be amazing. We look forward to big things.”