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Keenan Allen Is No Rookie

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Rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen (l.) of the San Diego Chargers is definitely not performing like a first-year player. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen (l.) of the San Diego Chargers is definitely not performing like a first-year player. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Things were going great for rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen. He was in the midst of a fine first season, and another 100-yard game, when it happened.

In the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals, with the San Diego Chargers down 17-7 and looking at second and 15 at their own 15-yard line, Allen caught a short pass from Philip Rivers before fumbling.

Now, the Bengals’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis would fumble on the ensuing series, so the only damage done was the 59 seconds Cincinnati took off the clock. However, the fumble was a reminder that Allen is still a rookie and it’s unfair to hold him to the standard of a seasoned NFL wide receiver.

Or is it?

Allen is having one of the finest rookie seasons ever by an NFL wide receiver. His 106 receiving yards against the Bengals marked the fifth time the Chargers' third-round pick topped the century mark this season. Furthermore, Allen is 157 yards short of becoming just the 13th NFL rookie ever to surpass 1,000 yards receiving.

“He wants to be coached extremely hard,” said head coach Mike McCoy. “He works extremely hard. There’s so many things he can correct every game, but he’s getting better every week. The results we've had with him, the trust Philip (Rivers) has with him now and what he's done is outstanding.

The trust Allen has established with Rivers, particularly because of how quickly it has developed, is perhaps the most impressive aspect of his rookie season. Wide receiver is one of the most difficult positions to transition to from college to the pros and yet Allen hasn’t missed a beat.

The 21-year-old assumed a prominent role in the Chargers' offense when veteran Malcom Floyd went down with a neck injury in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was practically non-existent against the Tennessee Titans the following week (one reception for -4 yards), but has since taken off.

He leads the Chargers with 843 receiving yards and has 24  more receptions than the next highest total by a Chargers receiver.

“I think he's really figured out, to be a great one in this league, what you've got to do,” McCoy said. “He's got a long ways to go and he’ll tell you he's got a long ways to go."