The New England Patriots shipped a fourth round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for TE Dwayne Allen and a sixth round pick. The price was the exact same as what the team sent to the Chicago Bears the year prior for TE Martellus Bennett, who emerged as one of the heroes of the season when TE Rob Gronkowski was lost with an injury.
Allen comes to New England with the expectation that he will be similar to Bennett on the field- and he’s off to a rough start.
In two days of minicamp open to the media, Allen has dropped at least four passes with another few misses, including the following goal line connection between Tom Brady and Allen, courtesy of ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
TE Dwayne Allen said he can play better. This drill today shows how he and Tom Brady are working to get on same page pic.twitter.com/auPSkoit1C— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) June 7, 2017
“There’s a standard of excellence here,” Allen said via the Providence Journal. “So if you drop a pass, that’s not excellence.”
“It’s always frustrating whenever you don’t do your best,” Allen added. “Whenever you don’t play to the standard that is set here. That’s exactly what that was. A lot of frustration because I know that I can play better. I know that I am better.”
There will always be an adjustment period for players entering a new system, but it must be difficult for Allen to come along slowly while fellow new addition WR Brandin Cooks is making highlight plays left and right.
It also doesn’t help that the 6’3 Allen is a different size from all of the other 6’6 and 6’7 tight ends on the roster; Brady will certainly have to re-calibrate his accuracy when connecting with Allen.
Allen comes to New England as a blocking-first tight end with upside as a receiver. After entering the league as one of the most promising young tight ends, he suffered a series of injuries and is still trying to reclaim his prior form.
When Allen has been healthy (2012, 2014, 2016), he’s averaged 36 receptions for 441 yards and 6 touchdowns and that should probably be similar to expectations for Allen as the #2 tight end in the Patriots offense.
Martellus Bennett picked 366 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 receptions in the six games where Rob Gronkowski played more than 25% of the snaps in 2016- and we also have to factor in that Bennett suffered a pair of serious injuries at the start of those six games (versus Cleveland) and again at the end (versus Seattle). Those numbers project to a 75 catch, 976 yard, 8 touchdown season.
Bennett came up short because he produced at a lower level without Gronkowski drawing attention away on the other side of the field. In his 13 games without Gronkowski (including playoffs), Bennett grabbed 38 catches for 433 yards and 4 touchdowns- which is surprisingly similar to Allen’s statline with the Colts.
I’d be comfortable setting the success-line for Allen at 30 receptions, 400 yards, and 6 touchdowns. If he finishes the season in this range, then he will have had a solid year; Anything above is a great year and anything below would be a disappointment.
There is still plenty of time for Allen to learn the New England offense- that’s the entire point of these minicamp sessions- and it’s far to early to start sending out panic signals. But it’s fair to examine what our realistic expectations should be for the new tight end.