After losing Vincent Jackson to the Buccaneers and suffering numerous unlucky injuries, the Chargers have been searching for a number one receiver for a long while.
That search may now be over, as rookie Keenan Allen–a third round pick out of Cal–has seemingly emerged these last two games as the team’s top target in the passing game, and he should be entrenched there.
After Eddie Royal showed some shades of his 2008 self, scoring five touchdowns in the team’s first two games, things have settled down a bit and nobody had really emerged for the Chargers at wide receiver until the rookie Allen burst onto the scene two weeks ago.
Allen caught just three passes combined in the team’s first two games, and then had five catches in the team’s victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the last weekend of September. Allen didn’t score any touchdowns in that game, but showed off his playmaking ability, going for 80 yards.
His emergence in that game got him some more targets from Philip Rivers, and he took full advantage against the Raiders with six grabs for 115 yards and a touchdown.
To prove that the previous two games were no fluke, Allen took to the field on Monday Night Football in the national spotlight looking to show the NFL world what he is capable of. He was targeted 12 times and finished with nine catches for 107 yards and another touchdown.
To say Allen has cemented his role as the #1 receiver in San Diego would be stating the obvious, but it’s also allowed the Chargers’ offense to open up in other areas, specifically the running game.
Having a consistent threat in the passing game outside and a guy who can stretch the field as well as work underneath gives the Chargers a lot of flexibility in the running game, and even Ryan Mathews was able to muster up a 100-yard performance on Monday night.
Allen will have some rookie stumbling blocks, but for the most part, I think the Chargers are willing to live with those warts. This is a guy who was an excellent prospect coming out of California this year, but he fell in the draft due to injury problems.
If he can stay healthy, he could be a rookie of the year candidate.