When tight end Dwayne Allen went down last year and ultimately missed all but one game of the season, everybody knew that it was a big loss for the Colts. I don't think anyone really understood just how big of a loss it would be.
Allen had a tremendous rookie season in 2012 and figured to be one of the most important parts of the Colts offense in 2013. First year NFL offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was relying heavily on having Allen in his offense - so, when Allen ended up missing 15 games, Hamilton and the Colts had to adjust on the fly.
Allen confirmed how different the offense ended up being last year when he spoke to the media on Sunday:
"I was able to watch them but the offense was totally different. When you have a lot of personnel go down, you got to do what works best and the initial game plan that we worked on in training camp and preseason was different from what we were able to execute throughout the year. You do what you can with the players that you have."
What Allen was saying is that the offense looked completely different in the season than the one he knew in training camp and entering week one. The reason for this is clearly that the Colts had to adjust after losing several players, most notably Dwayne Allen.
This year, the impact and influence of Dwayne Allen has already been evident in training camp. Pep Hamilton mentioned it Sunday:
"Just having Dwayne, having a guy that can block as well as run routes. He's very versatile and we like tight ends around here and more importantly, versatile tight ends. We want to try and find ways to create paranoia and matchup problems for our opponents, and a guy like Dwayne, Coby (Fleener) as well as all of our receivers, they'll do just that."
Chuck Pagano also talked about what impact losing Allen had last year to the offense when he spoke on Friday:
"We talked about running the ball and stopping the run. We'll always talk about that. It's becoming a pass-happy League, we know that. We understand that we've got one of the best quarterbacks in the League right now, who can throw the football and has guys to throw to, a lot of skilled guys. Finding that ‘Y' tight end, that stud tight end that can be your in-line blocker and also be a mismatch down the field in the pass game, it's hard to find that guy. We've got a lot of the guys out there that are adequate blockers, that are really good pass catchers, matchup nightmares for defenses. The Jimmy Graham's of the world, the (Antonio) Gates', those type of guys. We feel like we've got guys like that obviously, and Dwayne is one of those guys. When you talk about running the football and you need a guy at the point of attack, Dwayne gives you that. Coby (Fleener) and Jack Doyle and Weslye Saunders, they've gotten much better. They've improved in their work and they take pride in not only their pass catching, their athleticism, making plays down the field, but they take pride in blocking."
The return of Reggie Wayne is going to help the Colts a ton, but I think the one that will help the most in terms of offensive scheme is Dwayne Allen, and I've said that ever since he went down last year. He was going to play a major part in the offense - as a receiver and as a blocker. He can play wideout, tight end, fullback, etc. And he's not just versatile, he's good, and we've seen that clearly just in the first few days of camp already.
There are big expectations for Dwayne Allen this year, and that will be huge for the offensive scheme and for Pep Hamilton too.