Sometimes there will be three, sometimes four, on the field. Sometimes, there might even be five. But no matter how many receivers the Chargers use on each snap in the upcoming season, there always will be just one football.
“We stacked, man,” Chargers receiver Travis Benjamin said. “Hopefully, we’ve got enough balls around to catch. Each and every opportunity you get to catch the ball, just do your best with it.”
As the Chargers opened their three-day minicamp Tuesday at their practice facility in Costa Mesa, it was easy to see what Benjamin was talking about.
One play, it was Keenan Allen planting and pushing toward the sideline, creating plenty of space for an easy reception. Then it was Benjamin running past the defense for a long gain. Later, it would be Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams working underneath against the Chargers secondary — one of the strongest units on the team — for seemingly easy gains.
“We can be great,” Benjamin said.
And, with tight end Hunter Henry out for the season, they might just have to be.
Luckily for quarterback Philip Rivers and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the receiver group — which ultimately could end up including one or more of Geremy Davis, offseason star Artavis Scott or sixth-round pick Dylan Cantrell — the group complements one another more than it overlaps.
“Keenan is the all-around receiver. Me, I’m the fastest,” Benjamin said, making it seem as if the Chargers are a smart one, a funny one and a sensitive one away from having a boy band.
“I can be the team player sometime and be the decoy. When it’s time for me to get the ball, I take advantage of it. Mike’s the big ball guy. Tyrell, he’s just like Keenan, he can do everything as a receiver.”
On paper it all makes sense, but in practice it still needs to materialize.
“We’re still trying to develop their skills,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said of his receivers.
Whisenhunt said his receivers’ versatility and different skills combined with the right attitudes gives him confidence that one football will be enough to go around.
“We’ve got some guys that we ask a lot of different things out of, and we’re still looking to put them in different spots to see how we can create matchups,” he said. “Obviously, a guy like Keenan, who can line up in a lot of different spots. And we’re seeing Travis do a lot of good things, and Tyrell.
“Really, where we’re getting some good work is seeing Mike and figuring that out, because we’re even playing him at some different spots and just kind of getting used to seeing what he can do. And we’ve got some good young guys, so it is a good group. The biggest thing is it’s an unselfish group. In a receiver group, a lot of times you get some guys that are high maintenance, but we don’t really have that.”
Cornerback Jason Verrett, who has been out with a knee injury for most of the last two seasons, came back and participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since undergoing surgery last year.
“He knows the system we’ve been running,” Lynn said. “He’s been out, and he’s been studying. He knows what to do. We can move him inside, outside, and it doesn’t faze him. We’re just working him back in slowly.”
Verrett, the team’s first-round pick in 2014 and a Pro Bowler in 2015, has been plagued by injuries in his time with the Chargers. This is the last year of his rookie contract.
“He was here last year, and I can tell you, watching him in 11-on-11 and individual drills, to me, it’s not even close to where he’s at right now,” Lynn said.