Dwayne Allen could have a big role with the Patriots in 2017. (Ed Mulholland/USA Today Sports)
The first big offseason splash the Patriots made was swinging a trade with the Colts for tight end Dwayne Allen. Allen was acquired along with a sixth-round pick in exchange for the Patriots’ fourth-round pick.
Allen, 27, is signed through 2019 with cap hits of $4.9 million this year, $5 million next year and $7.4 million in 2019 — a very reasonable contract.
It’s clear he was brought in to be a complement to Rob Gronkowski and also an insurance policy in case he gets injured. He is the Marcellus Bennett of 2016, except he has a slightly different skill set.
In his five seasons with the Colts, he’s totaled 126 receptions for 1,451 yards and 19 touchdowns. While those numbers are pretty decent, Allen is hoping for a bigger role with New England than he had in Indianapolis.
“One thing that I’ve caught on to early is Coach [Bill] Belichick’s saying of, ‘The more you can do.’ I’m just about winning,” Allen said on his opening conference call. “I want to win and I understand that the more skills I can provide the offense, then hopefully the more mismatches that can be created for myself and other players. That’s what I’m about. I’m excited to be utilized as a football player again and not be confined to any box, but just to be a football player, a tight end.”
So, what is Allen referring to with being “excited to be utilized as a football player again?”
With the Colts he was primarily used as a blocker until the offense got into the red zone and that was where the tight end did most of his damage in the passing game. New England will use him a bunch and he will have a much bigger role in the offense than he did with Indy.
At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, the Patriots wouldn’t be doing themselves any good by not having him serve as a blocker on some plays, which will be an upgrade from Bennett last year. The one knock on Bennett would be his blocking skills, which he even admitted at times wasn’t up to par at some points last year. Also, given his success in the red zone, look for Allen to be a frequent target of Tom Brady near the goal line, especially with all the attention likely going towards Gronkowski.
Of Allen’s 126 catches, an insane 15 percent of them have gone for touchdowns and according to Pro Football Focus, he has caught 71.9 percent of his red zone targets since entering the league, the best rate for all tight ends. It’s also third among receivers in that span trailing just Wes Welker (74 percent) and new Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks (72 percent).
Imagine all the possibilities for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
When not being used as a blocker, where will Allen line up? Based on what the Patriots did with Bennett, likely in the slot.
According to Pro Football Focus, 41 percent of Bennett’s routes last year came out of the slot. Allen is also very comfortable with that, as 50 percent of his routes came out of the slot, so this is where to expect Allen to line up. With he and Julian Edelman lining up on opposite sides, this could create major matchup problems for defenses.
Allen will likely play a similar role that Bennett had in 2016 with more of an emphasis on blocking and more of a presence in the red zone. Given all the attention Gronkowski will get, Allen could be one of the steals in fantasy football when it comes to tight ends.
Given all that Allen can do, he will just add to the versatility of the Patriots offense in 2017.