Wide receiver Keenan Allen finished the 2014 season on the sideline due to multiple ailments. Despite missing the last two games of the season, his 77 receptions were a career-high for the wideout.
After bursting onto the scene as a rookie, Allen experienced what some may consider to be a sophomore slump, totaling only 783 yards receiving after topping the 1,000-yard mark (1,046 yards) as a rookie. He also saw his touchdown catches cut in half, decreasing from eight to four.
“I was average,” Allen told Chargers.com regarding his second year in the NFL. “From what I expect of myself, it was average.”
In Allen’s defense, opposing defenses had a full-year of tape on the former Cal Bear, bracketing him or placing a safety over the top in a robber role. The lack of a consistent running game certainly didn’t make matters easier.
In the same article on Chargers.com, Allen mentioned that he could see some increased playing time in the slot.
“My focus this offseason was just getting back to the basics, said Allen. Focusing on fundamentals and doing what I do. Playing my ball and not trying to do too much. It was tough being out at the end of last year when the guys were fighting, but everything happens for a reason. I will definitely do whatever is best for the team, and that could mean more in the slot. That would be good. Stevie (Johnson) and I can do some work there, so I will try to do the best I can be. For me, the biggest difference when I get in the slot is that you don’t have just a one-way option. You can go pretty much both ways on the release, and on the outside, if you have an outside route you go outside and inside route you go inside.”
The move to the slot-receiver position could actually benefit the 23-year-old. He is a solid route runner, possessing good feet which allow him to secure a strong release from the line of scrimmage. That’s not to say that his time on the outside is over, but increased time in the slot will allow him to use more of the field in an effort to create separation between himself and opposing defenders.
Although the team lost Eddie Royal in free agency to the Bears, the addition of veteran Stevie Johnson should help alleviate some pressure from Allen. Though Johnson didn’t quite impress with the 49ers, if used properly, Johnson can beat one-on-one coverage. Add in another healthy season from Malcom Floyd, and the Chargers have a wide receiving corps that can do some damage. The ageless Antonio Gates, despite losing a step or two, is still a force to be reckoned with in the passing game. Allen seems to be focused on leaving 2014 behind him and forging forward to having a strong season in year three of his NFL career.
As long as the third-year receiver continues to work on his rapport with Philip Rivers, this season could easily see him surpass the numbers he put up during his first two seasons in the league. The future seems bright for such a young player. Fans should look forward to watching him grow within the Charger offense.