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Here’s to the Keenan Allen Hype Train

Yeah, we’ve known Keenan Allen is a talent since he showed up in San Diego via Cal Berkeley. 2016 is the year the rest of the league catches up.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Being a Chargers fan since Philip Rivers first suited up during the 2006 season, it’s tough imagining what life after Phil looks like. Chargers stalwarts such as Eric Weddle, Mike Scifres, and Nick Hardwick have moved on, and it won’t be long until Rivers and Antonio Gates join the others in figuring out life after the lightning bolts.

It’s a bleak thought. Telesco toils in signing the player he described as “our guy” over and over, shooting down our confidence in the Spanos family during this drawn-out period of stadium limbo. Will fans even care about the team if they move to Los Angeles? Will all of this even matter when Rivers and Gates leave?

No matter how much some Chargers fans may hate on Telesco, I think we can all agree that he has brought in some top-tier young talent. Guys like Jason Verrett, Denzel Perryman, and Hunter Henry certainly seem to lend a positive outlook for the team’s future.

But my oh my, Tom Telesco got the steal of the draft in 2013, the year he selected Keenan Allen in the third round, #76 overall. Just look at some of the highlights Keenan has been able to produce in just three years:

What’s that, you say? I’m just writing this article as a way to get more views for my personal Keenan Allen mix? That’s preposterous, you’re reading too much into this.

Anyway, I recently began to re-appreciate just how talented Keenan is. Entering his fourth year in the league, Allen really emerged in his rookie year, when, in just 12 starts, he put up some of the best numbers ever for a rookie receiver. And sure, OBJ quickly stole the show with his amazing 2014 campaign, but that doesn’t take away from the impressiveness of Keenan’s accomplishments.

Allen’s sophomore slump was well-documented. Stories floated around about a lack of effort and showing up to camp out of shape. An uninspiring finish found Keenan on the bench, with new resolve for the next season. Coaches, reporters, and fans alike raved about just how good #13 looked the following offseason. 8 games, 67 receptions, 725 yards, and 4 touchdowns later, Allen found himself, yet again, catching splinters. All because of this one highlight grab:

Allen got his big extension, then showed up and dominated from the get-go of this year’s training camp. So much so you gotta ask, what’s holding him back from being a Top 10, maybe even Top 5 receiver this year?

Nothing. That’s what.

The injury-prone label is misleading for a guy who has yet to celebrate his 25th birthday. He did have a major injury to his posterior cruciate ligament going into the draft, the real reason for his slide down the draft boards. But he really only missed two games in 2014 due to injury. His season ended last year due to a freak kidney laceration. There’s no evidence to confidently expect Allen to miss a significant amount of time in 2016 and man, is there a lot going for him.

Philip Rivers and Ken Whisenhunt ensure a solid floor for Keenan. When you factor in a run game that has nowhere to go but up, and two great complimentary receivers between Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Moss Williams, Allen looks like he’s primed for a real coming-out party. The kind of season where he becomes a true household name.

He’s not going to blow by you, and he’s not going to out-jump you; he’s just not an AJ Green or Julio-type athlete that can win with sheer natural gifts. No, Keenan Allen is a savvy route runner with great hands and a knack for gaining yards after the catch, an all-around nightmare for opposing corners.

Speaking of cornerbacks, you know who got schooled in learning how incredible Keenan is? The Cardinals very own Patrick Peterson. After our man Garrett Sisti attended the Chargers joint practice with the Cards, he had this to say about #13:

Allen was matched up with the Cards CB Patrick Peterson through both sessions and he caught so many TD passes most people lost count. He had scored at least one touchdown in 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s AND 11-on-11’s plus made enough catches on the field to easily make him the leader in receiving yards but also the best receiver for both sides.

Pundits laud Peterson for being a tough, athletic corner, the kinda guy who can run with most top receivers in the league; that’s what got him picked #5 in 2011, after all.

That’s why it’s even more impressive when you see plays like this.

Sure, it’s just a clip from preseason—practice at that. But during this part of the NFL’s schedule, also known as optimist’s season, there’s no reason not to add more fuel to the Keenan Allen Hype Train.

Choo choo.

Author’s Note: After writing this article, I was so hyped about Keenan’s upcoming 2016 campaign, I went and bought a navy #13 jersey. Assuming he has the season I’m expecting from him, just know I bought his jersey before it was cool.