Training camp is here! The NFL's most quiet period has come to an end as the New England Patriots have started this year's camp last week. The 90 players currently under contract are now in the process of fighting for spots on either the team's 53-man roster or its 10-man practice squad.
As we have done throughout the offseason, we will continue to take a look at the men fighting for those few select spots on the 2017 Patriots – and to find out who will and might be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of New England's offseason acquisitions.
Name: Dwayne Allen
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 83
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6'3, 265 lbs.
2016 review: Despite coming off a season in which he struggled with injuries and caught only 16 passes, the Indianapolis Colts re-signed unrestricted free agent Dwayne Allen to a four-year, $29.4 million contract in March. The contract all but confirmed that the team saw 2012 third round draft selection Allen as its top option at the tight end position going forward.
Allen was indeed able to bounce back from a forgettable 2015 campaign. He finished the season fourth on the team in receptions (35) and yards (406) while also being second in touchdown receptions (six). Appearing in 14 of the Colts' 16 games – missing weeks seven and eight with an ankle injury –, Allen played a total of 612 offensive snaps (of 1,097; 55.8%).
However, even though he was paid like Indianapolis' number one tight end option, Allen oftentimes had to take a backseat to Jack Doyle. The former undrafted rookie actually led the Colts' tight ends in receptions, receiving yards and playing time on both offense and special teams (Allen played a mere two snaps in the kicking game throughout the season). In short: Doyle became the number one tight end.
Consequently, the Colts opted to put Allen on the trade block following his fifth year in the NFL. In early March, one day after Indianapolis' re-signed unrestricted free agent Jack Doyle, Allen was indeed dealt away: The Patriots acquired the Clemson product and a sixth round draft selection for a fourth round pick.
2017 preview: Due to the price New England had to pay to acquire him and the fact that the team would only save around $400,000 of his $4.9 million cap hit (the eighth-highest on the team) when releasing him, Dwayne Allen is a lock to make the Patriots' 53-man roster. Ergo, the 27-year old will be asked to serve as the team's top tight end option behind perennial Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski.
Even though he showed some struggles during OTAs and minicamp, the role should generally suit Allen well. With Gronkowski ahead of him on the depth chart and the team expected to run less two-tight end sets due to the acquisition of wideout Brandin Cooks, Allen will be under less pressure to perform both physically – injuries have been an issue for him in the past – and mentally.
If Gronkowski is able to stay healthy and based on last year's number two – Martellus Bennett – Allen should in turn play around 50-60% of the Patriots' offensive snaps. However, he still needs to be ready to take over the number one spot in case Gronkowski, who has not played a 16-game season since 2011, becomes a no-show. Judged by the early portions of training camp, Allen is on his way to be just that.
Overall, Allen will likely not have the same impact as fellow offseason acquisitions Brandin Cooks or Mike Gillislee. However, he will offer valuable depth and experience at the tight end position – an important role in the Patriots' offense, if history is any indication.