The New England Patriots replaced tight end Martellus Bennett over this past offseason by acquiring Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts. Allen had a promising start to his career derailed by injuries, but if he could find his old form he would provide the Patriots a starting-caliber tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski.
The trade hasn’t gone as planned.
After struggling with drops all of minicamp and training camp, Allen has zero catches through six games (Bennett has 22 for the Green Bay Packers) and he’s seen his role reduced in recent weeks, playing just 15 combined offensive snaps against the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets. He hasn’t seen a target since week 4, when Tom Brady underthrew a wide-open Allen for a missed 35-yard gain.
Now Allen could have definitely made a better adjustment to the football, but Brady also could have thrown a much more accurate pass. It’ll be hard for the two to get on the same page without giving Allen better opportunities in the game, but at least one teammate thinks the Brady-Allen connection is about to take off.
“Dwayne's been a great teammate,” All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski said about Allen. “He’s a great guy and he comes out and works every single day, works his tail off, works his butt off, and I feel like he’s going to turn the corner soon. He’s right around the corner. He’s been working hard. He’s been grinding and he’s a great guy. I love having him out there with me.”
Perhaps Allen will see an expanded role in the coming weeks, but with Danny Amendola playing so well in the slot and James Develin blocking well from the backfield, there are already so few extra snaps to go around. Factor in the Patriots decision to use a sixth offensive lineman in the running game against the New York Jets, with offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle coming on the field instead of Allen, and there are almost no more offensive snaps to go around.
Allen hasn’t made anything of his passing opportunities, including a dropped pass in flat against the Texans, but it’s not like he’s been given a fair chance on too many of his targets. In addition to the underthrow against the Panthers, he’s seen the following targets:
Week 1 against the Chiefs
Week 2 against the Saints
Week 3 against the Texans
Allen’s total: Six targets. Two overthrows. One underthrow. One throwaway. One bad quarterback decision against the Saints. One drop.
Dating back to 1992, when target tracking first started, Allen is the first and only player to have 0 receptions on 6 targets through 6 games.
The Patriots didn’t play Allen much against the Panthers or the Jets. He was either a decoy or taken off the field in favor of Jacob Hollister against the Buccaneers when Gronkowski didn’t play.
When will the turnaround happen? It’s hard to say, even with Gronkowski thinking it’s right around the corner. It’s hard to entirely pin Allen’s lack of receiving production in the first quarter of the season on the tight end when Brady isn’t throwing a good ball, and it’s not like Allen isn’t getting open.
But that lack of connection is why Allen was benched. If there’s no connection through four games, the Patriots aren’t going to keep forcing it and it’s not like they’re going to bench Brady- so why not use a player like Amendola that has a productive rapport?
And so any future role for Allen will require some serious improvement in practice- and Gronkowski is a great source to speak about what’s happening off the field.