Wide receiver is a tough position to transition from college to the NFL. The speed of the NFL, the types of offenses, and the size of the professional defenders makes it so. It takes most receivers at least a season or two to adapt to the higher level of play before they can really showcase what they can do. For Keenan Allen, it took about four games.
What He Brings
Allen is the absolute perfect wide receiver for the offense that the Chargers run. His route-running skills are off the charts, especially for a rookie. He glides through his routes in artistic fashion yet still has the suddenness to freeze defenders in their tracks. He is dangerous when he has the ball in his hands, always finding extra yards after the catch. He also has great hands and doesn't drop the ball. His style of play is extremely impressive for a 22 year-old player. For a more extensive look at Allen, check out Kyle Posey's breakdown of his rookie season.
Allen totaled 1,046 receiving yards in 2013, even though he only had 30 going into Week 4. Other than A.J. Green, the #4 overall pick in 2011, Allen is the only receiver to post 1,000 yards in their rookie year since 2007. His 8 touchdowns were also impressive, considering many of them came in big wins or primetime games. Expectations will be sky high for Keenan going into his sophomore season.
Importance to the Team
Allen is going to carry a huge weight on his shoulders in 2014. His 71 receptions were third on the team in 2013, behind only Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead. The next best wide receiver on the team was Eddie Royal with only 47 catches. The Chargers made it work last season, especially with a heavier running game, but they will need more production from the outside receivers if they want the offense to improve.
The front office also did not add any help on the outside for Allen. Not known as a burner, he would be best paired with a deep threat on the opposite side. The organization appears to be counting on the return of a healthy Malcom Floyd, as they did not add a wide receiver this offseason until the 7th round of the draft. That, combined with the slowing down of 34 year-old Antonio Gates, and Allen will have to be even better in 2014. We could see a heavier rushing attack throughout the 2014 season, but the passing game will go through Keenan Allen.