By Dave Thomas
When Danario Alexander and then Malcom Floyd went down for the San Diego Chargers earlier in the 2013 preseason and regular season, it would have been easy to hit the panic button as it relates to the team’s wide receivers. Enter Keenan Allen.
While Allen is not going to make anyone in San Diego forget about former star Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay) anytime soon, he has become one of the go-to guys for veteran quarterback Philip Rivers.
In last Sunday’s 24-6 win at Jacksonville (the Chargers second straight win this season), Allen, who told Chargers.com that he was mentored by former great Wes Chandler, had three receptions for 67 yards. On the season, the University of California rookie has hauled in 26 catches for 399 yards (two TDs). Not a bad start for a guy in his initial NFL season.
Bolts Had Issues at Receiver Position
Even though Allen may have seen playing time anyhow, that time was certainly sped up given the mounting injuries the Chargers were facing this season.
The first big blow came when projected starter Alexander went down with a season-ending knee injury in the pre-season. Alexander, who came to the Chargers last season after a pair of campaigns in St. Louis, caught seven touchdown passes a year ago from Rivers.
The next big blow came in the regular season with the veteran Floyd. After suffering a neck sprain in the Week 2 win at Philadelphia, the eight-year pro from Wyoming was put on the shelf for the remainder of the season after playing in only two games. A season ago, Floyd was a go-to guy for the Bolts, catching 56 balls for 814 yards.
So, with both Alexander and Floyd done for the season before the Chargers even got out of September, there were likely more than a few nervous San Diego fans, many of whom were likely wondering who Rivers would target.
If you look at the receiving roster for the Chargers, it was basically down to the versatile Eddie Royal, third-year man Vincent Brown, veteran tight end Antonio Gates, and the former New England Patriot Danny Woodhead out of the backfield. Not a bad cast, but not exactly a mixture of talent that will be rushing off to Canton one day, except of course for Gates.
Third Best in Yards at Cal
For a man only a year removed from the Cal Golden Bears and the college level, Allen seems to have found a home in Southern California.
While at Berkeley (2010-12), Allen—who left school after his junior campaign—racked up some 2,570 yards receiving for third best all-time among the school’s receivers. Even though he is still a work in progress, Allen has shown both San Diegans and others around the NFL that he is not someone you can turn a blind eye to when the Chargers have the ball.
Whether or not Allen is one day regarded as one of the Chargers’ best wide receivers remains to be seen for some time to come.
For now, however, he is definitely among the guys that one Philip Rivers has on his radar.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.