Chargers WR Keenan Allen shows signs of moving past injuries
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — If there were any doubts that Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen is healthy again, joint practices with the Rams and New Orleans Saints have quashed them.
Allen caught touchdowns in live red-zone and goal-line drills against the Saints, and also had an impressive one-handed grab in the 7-on-7 period. But it was a hit the previous week in the first meeting of the future stadium co-tenants that has been the talk of the Chargers’ training camp.
Allen executed a perfect tackle of cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman during a scuffle between the Chargers wide receivers and Rams secondary, showcasing two-handed form that wouldn’t have been out of place in mixed martial arts. It was a good reminder than Allen was once regarded as the best safety recruit in the country before he started playing receiver at California.
“That was a good takedown,” Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said.
Allen joked that it almost led to a change of position.
“I almost got moved to safety, if y’all must know,” Allen said.
That fearlessness is what Allen is trying to recapture after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in the season opener last year. It was the third consecutive season that Allen ended the year on injured reserve, and he has been limited to just nine games over the last two years.
There was a lacerated kidney that sidelined Allen for the final eight games of the 2015 season. A broken collarbone ended his 2014 season with two games to go.
The unpredictable nature of the three unrelated injuries was most frustrating to Allen.
“It’s tough, man, but we signed up for it. It comes with the game,” Allen said.
However, Allen’s last injury allowed Tyrell Williams to emerge as a 1,000-yard receiver to give the Chargers another asset in the passing game.
With Philip Rivers spreading the ball around to Allen, Williams, Dontrelle Inman and speedy Travis Benjamin, it will be a challenge for opposing defenses to focus on any receiver.
Factor in first-round pick Mike Williams, provided he can play this season after a back injury has kept him out of training camp, and tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, Allen isn’t shy about his expectations for the group.
“I think we can be amazing. Just see the first drive against Seattle last week,” Allen said. “We got so many guys that can touch the ball and go the distance, so can’t focus in on too many people.”
The lynchpin would be Allen returning to the form he demonstrated as a rookie in 2013, when he had 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Allen averaged 14.7 yards per catch that season, but hasn’t topped 10.8 over the last three years.
Allen’s focus is on “playing unconsciously” and not thinking about his knee or the other injuries that have stalled his progress. His goal in training camp is “just trying to get back to where I was,” Allen said. “Trying to get back comfortable. Trying to get back running to full speed without thinking about cutting and stuff like that.”
There was one play against the Saints that gave another strong indication Allen is nearing that point. Allen caught a pass in the flat and was one-on-one with defensive back De’Vante Harris. Allen gave a stutter step that left Harris flat-footed and cut inside for a 10-yard gain.
Allen was shoved out of bounds by another Saints defensive back, leading to some barking from the Chargers’ sideline. It quickly dissipated and there was no need for Allen to deliver another big hit.
After all, Allen doesn’t want to take too many chances.
“I definitely want to be well-rested, taken care of, but at the same time we still got to come out here and get better, clean up the mistakes and build the chemistry still,” Allen said. “Still got a lot of work to do.”