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Sophomore Slump Isn’t In Allen’s Vocabulary

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The San Diego Chargers are hoping wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) can still elevate his game following his stellar rookie season. Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images
The San Diego Chargers are hoping wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) can still elevate his game following his stellar rookie season. Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Since the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft, the talking heads from cable television have been waxing poetically about which rookies will make an immediate impact this fall, all but forgetting the accomplishments of  last year’s rookie class. Why? Well, unfortunately half of them will have a disappointing second year in the NFL.

The odds are that wide receiver Keenan Allen will not duplicate his stats from 2013, as he had one of the most productive rookie campaigns in San Diego Chargers history. Allen finished the regular season with 71 receptions, 1,046 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches. It’s imperative for him to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump or the Chargers’ playoff dreams will turn into a sheer nightmare.

Working to his advantage is that Allen came into the league as an NFL-ready receiver from Cal, as he has great body control, sure hands and precise route-running skills. Plus, Allen was drafted into the perfect situation, and quickly became quarterback Philip Rivers’ favorite target by getting open in tight coverage, especially around the end zone.

“He has great wide receiver qualities,” Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich recently told ESPN.com. “He’s great off the line of scrimmage against press. He’s got great feet. He’s really good with the ball in his hand. You just ask him to keep building on what he did last year. 

“From the fifth game on, he literally was a Pro Bowl-caliber player in his rookie year. He was phenomenal. Now, it’s all about consistency. Can you do it year in, year out?” 

A main reason why Allen’s production could increase in 2014 is that the Chargers’ offensive coaches have a better understanding of his skills and will utilize them more in the offense. Head coach Mike McCoy has made the necessary changes in his aerial attack that will spotlight Allen’s talents, but his production will depend heavily on how much others in the passing game will contribute. The front office has done a terrific job of keeping this unit together for another year, as there wasn’t a significant change made to the receiving group.

Let’s not forget that Allen was still recovering from a knee injury that prematurely ended his collegiate career in 2012. He was mired at the bottom of the depth chart coming out of last year’s training camp, but early season injuries forced McCoy to insert him into the lineup, and the rest is history.

There’s no question that Allen has put the time in the weight room and on the practice field in order to be fully healthy for his sophomore year in the NFL. His goal is to show the doubters that his rookie season wasn’t a fluke and become a legitimate playmaker that opposing defenses must be concerned with each week.

“One thing for him that’s going to be key -- and I think he knows this -- is not to relax and think you’re going to just duplicate that year,” Rivers recently told ESPN.com. “They’re going to know where No. 13 is, have a plan for him and try to take away the things he does well.”