Seven months ago, Jeff Cumberland accidentally found himself in the line of fire.
The veteran tight end was sitting in the stands at Staples Center, watching the Clippers take on the Lakers. Two days earlier, the Chargers had announced their relocation north. And suddenly, when the team logo flashed on the big screen, Cumberland heard boos.
“It just happened out of nowhere,” he said. “It went so fast. I didn’t really have time to really think about it too much.”
The screen transitioned to a shot of Cumberland, and the boos soon subsided. And in April, he decided to re-sign with the Chargers on a one-year deal.
The Los Angeles area might not be fully sold on this franchise yet, but the 30-year-old tight end already knew this was the team for him.
“They feed their tight ends a lot,” he said.
In 2015, before Cumberland decided to leave New York for San Diego, seven different Chargers hauled in multiple touchdown receptions. Antonio Gates — a potential first-ballot Hall of Famer — had five, while fellow tight end LaDarius Green added four. When Green left for the Steelers the following March, Cumberland looked like a capable addition to the rotation.
Instead, he became a spectator. Cumberland tore his Achilles’ tendon in the preseason, and watched as second-round pick Hunter Henry led the team with eight touchdown catches. Quarterback Philip Rivers threw to his tight ends on more than a quarter of his passes, targeting Gates and Henry 93 and 53 times, respectively.
Only two other teams, the Eagles and the Texans, gave multiple tight ends at least 50 targets.
In other words, there’s still plenty of opportunity for Cumberland. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end has been impressive through the first week of training camp, and caught a long touchdown at StubHub Center last Saturday.
That the Chargers…