This one hurts, it really does.
But for this season, it's a huge loss.
This preseason, in my series on the 13 most important players to the Colts' success this year, I listed Dwayne Allen number six. The bulk of the article was actually written when I feared he would miss significant time with his foot injury, which wasn't the case. But the core of that article was originally for a scenario when the Colts were without Allen. Which is now.
The loss of Allen to a season ending injury is the third such injury to an offensive starter for the Colts in the past week. First it was running back Vick Ballard suffering a torn ACL, and then it was left guard Donald Thomas suffering a torn quad. The loss of Ballard was big; the loss of Thomas was even bigger. But neither of them even compares to the loss of Dwayne Allen.
How exactly does the loss of Allen for the year affect the Colts? Let's take a look at a few of the implications the injury has for the Colts (in no particular order):
- It's Coby Fleener Time. In Allen's absence this past Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, Fleener certainly stepped up big time, catching 4 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown on 8 targets, and he also had a touchdown called back on Reggie Wayne's illegal shift penalty. As Brad Wells pointed out, had the Colts have won Fleener would have been considered one of the heroes of the game. I had really high expectations for him entering the season and thought he was poised for a breakout season, but that was all as part of the duo with Allen instead of on his own. Can Fleener shoulder the load of being the sole number one guy and can he keep up his success that he had in Allen's absence this Sunday? I think he absolutely can, and that's something that the Colts absolutely need him to do.
- The tight end position is fine. With Fleener as the starter, the Colts also have Dominique Jones and Jack Doyle backing him up. Then on the practice squad (perhaps not for long) they have rookie Justice Cunningham, who had a very good camp and preseason with the team and who is a great blocking tight end. People have asked who the Colts will bring in to replace Allen, and my answer is nobody - at least not yet. I think the tight ends they have are solid and a good group, but obviously the loss of Allen hurts.
- The real impact of the Allen loss was not in team need but rather in talent. I think the Colts are fine at tight end and I think that in the passing game, while they certainly will miss Allen, they will make up for it just fine. The running game has taken quite a hit with the injuries to Ballard, Thomas, and Allen, but that's the same way it was on Sunday and they still ran well then. The reason the injury to Allen is huge is not necessarily because he was an indispensable part of the team but rather that he was an all-pro talent and quickly emerging as one of the league's best tight ends, not to mention that paired up with Fleener, the Colts were poised to have perhaps the league's best tight end duo.
- Many people have mentioned this one already, and it definitely is a potential result of this injury: will the Colts go to a more pass-based offense and stray a bit away from the run emphasis after all these injuries? My answer is simply that I hope so. But honeslty, it's hard to tell right now, and knowing Pep Hamilton, probably not. It makes sense, though. To make up for the loss of your best tight end in a two tight end offense, wouldn't it make sense to go to a one tight end offense more often? Yeah, I thought so too. Especially considering the fact that the Colts have three good receivers in Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey (who was back at practice on Wednesday) and T.Y. Hilton; not to mention the fact that they have Coby Fleener as a receiving threat at tight end still. And the biggest reason of all is because they have Andrew Luck at quarterback, and giving him more opportunities to throw the ball is a good idea. It makes total sense to got to a more pass-based offense now, and I sincerely hope Pep Hamilton agrees and does just that.
- One quick note regarding Pep Hamilton's offense: many (including myself) were hoping and thinking that when the Colts got Allen back it would make quite a few of the offensive struggles the team has been having go away. But now, Allen isn't coming back this year and the offense is going to have to find ways to fix those problems without Allen. One of the best solutions is looked at in the point right above this (# 4).
- Several people have already asked me if we should just pencil the Colts in for a good draft pick (top-15) next year, and some have even joked about entering the Jadeveon Clowney race (at least I hope they're kidding...). My answer is simply to hold off on all of that talk. The team still has Andrew Luck, and as long as he's upright, they'll be in the playoff race. Whether or not they actually make it is impossible to predict right now and all signs are pointing towards no at the moment. But for sure, with Andrew Luck, the Colts should be right in the race up to the very end. And honestly, with where the Colts are at in their rebuilding process, a playoff spot is a much bigger step forward than a high draft pick is.