Wide receivers can make or break a team’s offense. When a running game is struggling to gain yards on the ground, an offensive coordinator can try to approach the attack through the air by targeting a large-framed pass catcher downfield. Even a screen pass can turn from a short-yard gain into a massive growth in production with the right receiver catching the ball.
Names such as Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins, Steelers’ Antonio Brown, Falcons’ Julio Jones, and Saints’ Michael Thomas might be the talk of the league this season and rightfully so. All four receivers have been pivotal to their teams’ success and perhaps one of the key reasons their franchises are headed in the right direction.
But another name seems to be lost among even the secondary top caliber receivers in the league this season. While the offense is finding success at nearly every level of the field, the production of this once considered superstar receiver might have taken a hit overnight.
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen might not be a touchdown machine this season as in year’s past, but make no mistake, his name should be up there with the likes of others. All it takes is one game for a player who has perhaps struggled to make an impact turn things around.
That game is coming Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
”He takes care of himself,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “His weight is down to 203. He was 218 when he first got here. Shoot, this guy is hungry, man.”
Allen’s production since being drafted out of California in 2013. Minus his 2016 season where the 26-year-old receiver only played one game, Allen has averaged at least 10.2 yards per reception and scored a minimum of four times with Philip Rivers at the helm.
This season hasn’t been different for the top caliber receiver either. Through nine games, Allen has collected 53 receptions for 687 yards and averaged 13 yards per catch. The one knick towards another solid season is his total number of touchdowns. So far, he just has found the end zone twice, once coming during the team’s 20-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
”Keenan made a joke today saying, ‘I should get some of your paycheck the way I’m blocking for you,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “‘ I said, ‘It’s a two-way street.’”
That’s where statistics might not tell the whole story. Allen has always been a consistent blocker for the Bolt’s offense and has helped turn Gordon’s somewhat average career into a memorable season. Respect is earned not given, and Allen has earned respect in the Chargers locker room this season.
”Yeah, so he can do his little dance,” Lynn said. That’s why he wanted to get back in the end zone.”
A single touchdown game might not be enough to credit Allen this season. While second-year receiver Mike Williams is finding a rhythm this season as a reliable pass catcher, he’s still a tad inconsistent on the outside. Tyrell Williams has proven to be a nice contributor for the Bolts’ passing game, but outside of deep passes, Williams is rarely targeted.
But Allen has proven his ability to do it all. One of the league’s better slot receivers, Allen has the ability not just to make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage, but also in the open field after initial contact.
While both Williams are heavily targeted in the red zone, perhaps a few dump-offs across the middle to Allen should be Rivers’ game plan against the Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon. It’s more than just the fact that the 37-year-old quarterback will be going up against one of the league’s top pass rush, but also Allen’s track record against the organization.
In seven career games against Denver, Allen has collected 34 receptions for 379 yards and six total touchdowns. With the likes of Aqib Talib now out in Los Angeles and Bradley Roby playing more on the outside, this could be a perfect scenario for Allen and his slot receiving skills to become Rivers’ top target every play.
All it takes is one game for a player to gain national attention for the likes of reporters and analyst everywhere. But touchdowns speak louder than yards. With Allen’s lone pair, it seems he’s been lost along the way of being one of the league’s most consistent receivers.
Denver is the perfect place for a coming out party. While perhaps his yardage numbers might take a hit, expect Allen to thrive against a team whose number he’s had on speed dial for quite some time.
All it takes is one. One game to show the world who you truly are. Expect No.13 to get his finally.