NFL Wildcard Matchup – For Chargers It’s In The Slot
Whenever teams play on game day pundits with and without expertise look at the matchups in an effort to determine who has the upper hand after the whistle blows.When attempting to predict outcomes of athletic competition there are (of course) always sure shots. Easy to identify, a perfect example is an All-Pro matching up against a physically inferior rookie. You look at this and figure one team has a big advantage. Simple to see. A breeze to point out.
Other one-on-ones are harder to predict of course but then there are the “wild card” matchups. The contest an opposing team really has no way to counter. This can happen offensively or defensively and as a fan you don’t really care which. What you want is to watch it blow up, produce a big play, score points.
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers a lot of people are rightfully talking about their number one draft pick outside WR Mike Williams and for good reason. At 6’4″ with a huge wingspan and serious wheels the man is a beast on the outside and gives QB Phillip Rivers the deep outside threat the team has been lacking in recent seasons. However though not plentiful the NFL is littered with DB’s who have size, speed and athleticism that when matched with solid team defense can contain a player like Williams, especially as a rookie. His time will come as a true matchup nightmare, but probably not his rookie season.
What you don’t hear about from the fan on the street but dominates game planning by the opposition on game day is how any team can effectively matchup with 5’10” speedster Travis Benjamin out of the slot when it’s third and long.
With Mike Williams and Keenan Allen on the outside you have to respect the passing game at that level. You leave those two guys with single coverage on a consistent basis and Phillip Rivers will be ESPN Sports Center’s entire highlight reel for the day. That means teams are left with trying to use soft zones or find one guy that can matchup in the slot with the former Miami Hurricane as he employs his 4.36 second 40 yard speed on the pitch.
Unlike many speed receivers Benjamin is a savvy route runner who understand how to get open. He has mastery of his speed and more than one gear at the top end. Put a big guy on him and he out-quicks him in the short game. Put a little guy on him and he still out-quicks him. Put Papa Smurf on him and he still out-quicks him. Benjamin’s entire game is based on speed and quickness which is fine when you are the baddest SOB in quick-valley. He is.
As it’s almost mandatory for the opposition to focus their game planning to containing the superior outside passing attack on game day look for big plays to come out of the slot. This is the first time in a long time Rivers will have a complete skill set for his WR corps. He can work over the top, up the side, over the middle and underneath. Sure every team will be aware of Benjamin’s big play ability but can they keep a lid on him every snap of every quarter of every game? Hell no.
Rookie WR Mike Williams and veteran Keenan Allen will deservedly get the lions share of attention by defenses in 2017. But any team that doesn’t have an answer for Travis Benjamin out of the slot is giving up 7-14 points on game day. That NFL matchup works out just fine for the talented speedster. That works out just fine.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over