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Keenan Allen and the late season boom

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Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

If you were there during the 2015 season and were (unfortunately) able to witness the first of two major injuries for Keenan Allen, then you got to see him “LACERATE” his kidney on live television. On a play that looked like every other diving catch in the end zone, you also probably expected him to hop right back up or, at the least, hobble slightly before catching his breathe.

That was not the case.

Allen would be helped to the locker room moments later, never to return. Within the next 24 hours, after the Chargers fell to the Ravens on a last second field goal by Justin Tucker, we would find out that he somehow tore open one of his two kidneys on the impact with the turf.

Gone was the final eight games of the season for The Slayer.

After months of rehabilitation and excitement stemming from his workout videos posted his Instagram and other forms of social media, Allen finally returned to the field in week one of the 2016 season against their divisional rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs.

After almost thirty minutes of play and six catches (on six targets) later, Allen had over 60 yards receiving against one of the best cornerbacks in the country, the Chiefs’ Marcus Peters. The Chargers were up 21-3.

He was absolutely marvelous off the line of scrimmage. His release package: phenomenal. He might as well have been Allen Iverson with the rock in his hands.

But then....it happened...again. With less than 120 seconds left in the first half, Allen released from the slot, stemming-up the cornerback in front of him. With a shimmy at the top of his route, Allen stuck his right foot in the ground and pushed left towards the sideline.

Snap. (Crackle). Pop.

When Allen had his mind on a first down, the ACL in his right leg had other plans.

While every fan held their breathe, Allen was carted off the field, tears cascading down his face.

His season was, once again, finished far too early.

But it’s okay, reader. This story does, in fact, get better.

There was another grieving period. There was another offseason of rehabilitation and workout videos. There was cautious optimism, but optimism nonetheless. Allen has always had a knack for getting the fans excited which for his return which made the dreary, boring months leading up to the season just that much more bearable.

Enter the 2017 season. Enter Mike Williams, the newest wide receiver on the Chargers and the team’s recent first-round pick.

We all knew why Williams was selected that year. We all knew it because of the last two years and how they came to an end for Allen. But that wasn’t going to stop The Slayer. Not with so many defensive backs left un-slain.

It was a season to remember for Allen, at least, on an individual level. After all, number 13 had his gloves and jersey in the NFL Hall of Fame by the end of it, thanks in part to a historic three-game streak of 10 catches, 100 receiving, and a touchdown from weeks 11-13. Allen was the first to ever have such a stretch.

Allen finished the year with 102 catches for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns. The catches and yards are career-highs while his touchdowns were the most since he scored eight of them during his stellar rookie campaign.

The following season was more of the same for Allen. Even with a breakout year coming from Mike Williams, Allen still managed to haul in 97 passes for 1,196 yards and another six touchdowns. The slight dips are obvious in catches and yards but the stat lines are remarkably similar, nonetheless.

There was, however, one more interesting component to Allen’s past two seasons that I found very intriguing.

Allen started each season with a touchdown in the opener. If you decided to draft him on your fantasy football teams at the time, you were probably stoked and prepared to see more of the same all season long.

This was not to be the case.

In both ‘17 and ‘18, after scoring his initial touchdown of the year, Allen would then go on to be scoreless over the next eight and seven games, respectively.

After scoring in their first tilt with the Denver Broncos two years ago, Allen didn’t find the end zone until Week 11(!) against the Buffalo Bills (also known as the debut and death of Nathan Peterman).

This past year, Allen scored on a beautiful touchdown pass after breaking Orlando Scandrick’s ankles at the line of scrimmage:

It wasn’t until Week 10(!) that he would break out a dance for the fans when he caught a deep out against the Oakland Raiders.

Like, that’s #NotGood, right?

Well, most fans and fantasy owners were probably thinking that, until this happened.

Here are the scoring streaks that Allen went on following his hiatus from the touchdown column:

2017

Week 11: 12 catches - 159 yards - 2 touchdowns

Week 12: 11 catches - 172 touchdowns - 1 touchdown

Week 13: 10 catches - 105 yards - 1 touchdown

Total: 33 catches - 436 yards - 4 touchdowns
Weeks Prior (2-10, Week 9 Bye): 39 catches - 561 yards - 0 touchdowns

2018

Week 10: 6 catches - 57 yards - 1 touchdown

Week 11: 9 catches - 89 yards - 1 touchdown

Week 12: 7 catches - 72 yards - 1 touchdown

Week 13: 14 catches - 148 yards - 1 touchdown

Week 14: 5 catches - 78 yards - 1 touchdown

Total: 41 catches - 444 yards - 5 touchdowns
Weeks Prior (2-8, Bye Week 9 Bye): 39 catches - 522 yards - 0 touchdowns

Can we also agree that even the splits between the scoring streak and the score-less streaks are super similar??? My goodness.

As you can see, Allen has actually been more of a dud than stud during the past two seasons, fantasy-wise, until he snapped. You probably also notice that these streaks happened leading up to, and during, the usual weeks for the fantasy playoffs.

For real life purposes, we can still deduce from these numbers that Allen may “disappear” for stretches during the regular season, which is never a good thing. However, the Chargers were able to overcome his scoring allergy a whole lot better in 2018 than they did the prior year.

During the eight-game stretch without a score in ‘17, the Bolts went just 3-5. In 2018, during his seven-game drought, the team went 6-1. This just speaks volumes to the team’s increased depth and experience outside of their best players. The Chargers no longer need to rely on a select few players to keep things rolling game-in and game-out.

But one thing is VERY clear, Allen can most definitely strive to be a more consistent threat to score throughout the season. As much as we don’t mind it when the rest of the team can make up for it, your best players shouldn’t fall back into the shadows for weeks at a time.

One last stat to hammer this whole thing home:

After posting seven games of 100+ receiving yards in 2017, Allen came back to notch just three of those performances in 2018.

After posting five games with nine or more catches two years ago, he had just one such game this past season.

With Mike Williams recently becoming the first Chargers wide receiver since 1996 to score double-digit receiving touchdowns, the pressure is on Allen to remind the NFL, and the Chargers, that there’s only one Slayer in this league.