If someone were to ask who the top tight ends were in the NFL, the answers would probably come back with these players, in any specific order (and with good reason): Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, Jordan Cameron, Rob Gronkowski (when healthy) and Jason Witten.
Hell, people would probably tell you Allen isn't even the best tight end on his team due to the presence of joker (a receiving tight end who lines up both in line and out wide) tight end Coby Fleener.
But those people are overlooking possibly one of the top all-around tight ends the league has to offer in Allen.
In an interview with Craig Kelley of Colts.com earlier in the offseason, Allen was optimistic and sounded ready to get back onto the field after two hip surgeries and a full recovery from a fractured foot that happened on that same play.
“I’m very, very eager,” Allen said. “It’s a part of the game; injuries happen.”
Allen also said that he is “127 percent” and will be ready for the 2014 season.
His absence was a major blow to an offense going through a schematic change, switching from a vertical-based passing offense to a power run attack, a scheme that Allen was born to play in.
The loss of Reggie Wayne last season was devastating, but the presence of Allen would have undoubtedly decreased the void left by the future Hall of Famer.
He is a sure-handed receiver (just three dropped passes on 70 targets in 2012) who thrives at making plays in the middle of the field.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Allen gained 299 of his 521 yards and scored two of his three touchdowns as a rookie on passes between the hashes.
The third-year tight end out of Clemson is a solid athlete who always fights through contact in an effort to gain as many yards as possible on every reception.
Allen’s contributions aren’t just limited to the passing game.
In fact, his impact blocking in the running game might be a bigger weapon for the offense than his hands, just like a prototypical power run tight end.
According to Pro Football Focus, Allen recorded a 17.4 run-blocking rating as a rookie, which was not only the best of any rookie at his position, but it also made him the most efficient run-blocking tight end in the NFL.
That’s a pretty impressive feat for a rookie.
In my eyes, Richardson gets a slight pass because of being traded and plugged into a new system after the beginning of the regular season, not allowing him to get fully adjusted and learn the playbook over the offseason.
But with a healthy Allen (whose impact goes well beyond the stat sheet) present to take out blitzing linebackers and defensive backs, the running game could have had a very different fate in 2013, and it will change things a bit this year.
Here are a few examples of Allen’s excellent fundamental blocking skills. (I apologize for the moderately grainy pictures.)
Here, Allen is double-teaming a defensive lineman up to the strong-side linebacker at the next level.
Allen executes his assignment, but his running back is unable to find a large enough hole, running into a pile at the line of scrimmage.
Here, Allen’s assignment is to pick up the blitzing linebacker, securing the edge and opening a running lane for his running back.
Allen does just that, executing perfectly to spring a solid gain.
Obviously, having Luck provides the Colts with an advantage over a lot of teams. But with the return of Allen and Wayne, along with the additions of Hakeem Nicks (free agency) and Donte Moncrief (draft), the Colts will have an extremely dangerous passing attack.
If they can get anything more than 2.9 yards per carry out of Richardson and contributions from running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw (both returning from injury), this is a Colts offense that could potentially be elite—and, hey, if they stay healthy, maybe it will elevate them into serious Super Bowl contention.
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