San Diego Chargers‘ wide out Keenan Allen burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2013. The former Cal Bear was at one point projected to be a first round pick before a knee injury late in his senior season dropped him down the board. The Chargers happily took Allen in the third round, the seventh wide receiver to be taken.
After a bit of a rough start to his NFL career, a pep talk from his mom and a couple of injuries to the guys ahead of him, Allen was now able to show off his talents. Danario Alexander went down with a knee injury in camp and during the second game of the season, Malcom Floyd exited with a gruesome neck injury. Opening the door for KA13.
All he did with his opportunity was go on to be the 17th receiver in history to record 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie year. He was also runner up for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, racking up 1,046 receiving yards and 8 TD’s on 71 receptions.
This might be the reason everyone saw his 2014 campaign as disappointing. His 77 receptions, 783 yards and 4 TD’s were still solid numbers, some guys make careers of these kinds of seasons. But not the great ones, which Allen is working his way up to.
So what could have factored into his decline in numbers last season. If we look at the advanced metrics thanks to Advanced Football Analytics, we see that despite Allen’s increased targets and Target % (A receiver’s proportion of his team’s pass attempts targeted to him), his catch rate dropped almost 5%.
He might have been victom of his own success in 2014. After coming in as an unknown rookie, he was now the Chargers’ number one receiver. 2014 saw him go against Pro Bowl caliber corners like Patrick Paterson of Arizona, Richard Sherman of Seattle, Brent Grimes of Miami, and Darrell Revis of New England. That’s a tough gauntlet for any receiver in the NFL.
He did however put Sherman in the spin cycle in their week 3 matchup, a game the Chargers won.
It also had to do with the play calling and . While Rivers was able to pick apart a tough Seahawks defense by using Antonio Gates in the middle of the field, Rivers knew when to pick his battles. Here’s a clip from the New England game, Allen matched up against Revis Island.
Allen clearly gets separation off the slant but Rivers read isn’t even on that half of the field. The inconsistent offensive line also accelerated Rivers’ sense of pressure in the pocket and was sometimes not able to let routes develop downfield, resorting to dumping balls of to the RB’s or throwing it away.
Keenan Allen had a whopping 121 targets to lead the team, however, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal also all had over 90 targets. The Chargers’ offense was predicated on spreading the ball around and there were many games Allen completely disappeared. There were five games in 2014 where he had three or less receptions while having under 30 yards, having just three such games in 2013.
So what does 2015 look like for Keenan Allen? He will still have to compete for receptions with Floyd, newly acquired Stevie Johnson, and Gates (After the first four games). I think Allen will again lead the Chargers in receptions, in what should be a dangerous passing game. However, the addition of Melvin Gordon will certainly sway the offense into being a more ground and pound unit, but hey, it’s a passing league!
The key for the Chargers is to get Allen involved early and often, screen plays that get him in space and short routes. He’s one of the best route runners and has great hands so establishing him early will open up the whole offense. Allen will surpass 1,000 yards and snag at least 7 TD’s. There’s my prediction.