Chiefs Kelvin Benjamin might see action Thursday against Chargers
Less than a full week after having joined his third team since the start of last season, it would be understandable if Kelvin Benjamin’s head remained in a high-spin cycle. Still, the Chiefs’ newest wide receiver didn’t show a hint of being overwhelmed as he stretched at his locker before Tuesday’s practice.
Benjamin, who the Buffalo Bills waived last week, had his first practice with the Chiefs last Friday. When Thursday night ends, he may have hauled in his first catch in a game for the Chiefs.
It’s unlikely Benjamin will play an extended amount of time on Thursday, but the Chiefs’ offense may need help at wide receiver with Sammy Watkins sidelined with a foot injury and leading receiver Tyreek Hill limited in practice this week after sustaining a heel injury last weekend against Baltimore.
Despite the abbreviated practice time Benjamin has had with the team, he could factor into the game plan in some way against the Los Angeles Chargers this week.
Reid wouldn’t say Monday whether Benjamin would play, but he indicated immediately after the acquisition that it was a viable option to have Benjamin ready against the Chargers.
“It’s just concepts and really learning the language of a new playbook,” Benjamin said told The Star on Tuesday. “It’s coming real good to me. I feel like I’m grasping it real well.”
While Andy Reid’s offense includes a “ton” of pass patterns and a different terminology than Benjamin learned before, the 6-foot-5, 239-pound former first-round pick and the Chiefs’ coaching staff have aimed to keep things simple.
The offense will likely have a condensed catalog of plays when Benjamin is on the field.
“I think it’s pretty much just putting a package together for me, and me just learning that package right now,” Benjamin said. “You know, it’s so late in the season that we won’t have enough time for me to learn the whole playbook, so I’m just learning the packages that they’re giving me.”
The Carolina Panthers selected Benjamin 28th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. He started 15 games and registered 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie.
He spent the 2015 season on injured reserve with a torn left ACL, then registered 63 catches and 941 receiving yards in 2016. The Panthers traded him to the Bills in October 2017 in exchange for a third-round draft pick and seventh-round draft pick in 2018.
In his only game against the Chiefs, as a member of the Panthers in November 2016, he caught a team-high seven passes for 84 yards.
“He’s been taking some reps,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “First of all, he’s a good-looking kid. He give you a lot of flexibility on the perimeter because of his size. We know he can go up and get it. We just want to make sure that we’re bringing him in (and) not throwing him to the wolves, but making sure that he’s mentally prepared to go out there and execute the things we want him to do.”
This season, Benjamin logged 354 receiving yards in 12 games. He caught just 23 passes while being targeted 62 times. Part of that significant gap between catches and balls thrown his way certainly has to do with the Bills’ revolving door at quarterback, which included a rookie and several sub-par journeyman backups. However, the Bills saw fit to release him, and he cleared waivers.
Last week, Reid suggested a change of scenery might pay dividends for Benjamin.
“Just from throwing with him recently this last week, I mean, he has a ton of talent,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of Benjamin. “You could throw the ball out of the stadium and he’s going to catch it. You just have to build that trust with him as the rest of the season goes on, and he’ll be a great asset to this team.”
Benjamin, who made critical comments of his former teammate and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (a former league MVP) earlier this season, has been extremely complimentary of Mahomes since joining the organization. Mahomes enters the week leading the league in passing yards (4,300) and touchdown passes (43).
“I think it’s still going to be an adjustment, but we all know Pat — he’s super-accurate,” Benjamin said. “He puts the ball on the money and gives the receivers the best chance in the world, so you just come down with the catch for him.”