[Editor’s Note: Please welcome Matt Danely to our writing staff here at Stampede Blue! Matt is the host of the Locked On Colts Podcast, and we’re thrilled to have him on-board as a writer here too. Please give him a warm welcome!]
As we look at the transformation of the Indianapolis Colts roster, very little has actually changed to the offense in the past few weeks. Robert Turbin and Jack Doyle were both re-signed, and rightly so as they were very valuable within the constructs of Rob Chudzinski’s system.
The one considerable alteration to the offense was the trade involving Dwayne Allen. At his size, 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Allen was initially seen as a surprise, in terms of being a pass catcher, by many Colts fans especially in his rookie season which featured him accumulating 521 yards and 3 touchdowns on 45 receptions.
His touchdown percentage (27.6% of receptions) in his third season, after his second year was cut extremely short, was off the charts. But, he soon after appeared to be losing some effectiveness as an in-line blocker and never did make it back to his career high of 66 targets from his rookie year.
One of the main areas Allen was perceived to have been a significant asset was in the red zone – and for those who were upset about the trade, this was their largest complaint on the trade. But, was Allen really a big ‘red zone threat’ within this offense? There are various aspects of one’s game to sift through in order to determine whether a player can be defined as such.
Just to name a few of the more obvious attributes needed are; the player must be able to catch the ball with consistency in traffic, have good size, be a good route runner, possess the ability to draw mismatches, as well as consistently win at the line of scrimmage with little room to do it. Of course there are additional skills and physical tools that apply, but a large portion of consideration goes to results. Another area that may be overlooked is how often they are targeted, whether or not they are a product of chance in any given season, or grouping of games, as well as how often they are the intended target for a given play – what option they are within the progression of the play.
Physically, Allen certainly fits the mold of a perceived red zone target. He’s big, was a quality route runner, and was utilized to draw mismatches – or disguised appropriately – and certainly someone Chudzinski was hoping to use inside the twenty yard line. That much is out of the way as we go forward.
Taking all of this in to account, let’s look at how much of an actual threat Allen was in the red zone, and determine whether he’ll be missed in that regard.
Throughout the 2016 season, the Colts had a total of 68 attempts, 46 receptions and racked up 21 touchdowns. Of those, Allen was fourth on the team in both targets (9) and receptions (6), with T.Y. Hilton leading in targets (13) and Doyle hauling in the most catches (9). Donte Moncrief was the most productive in scoring with 6 touchdowns, while Allen, Doyle and Frank Gore all took in 4 apiece.
As far as reliability with the catch goes, Gore, Moncrief and Chester Rogers all posted catch rates of 80 percent or better. While that should be taken with a grain of salt, the fact still remains that Allen was fifth among those applicable with a catch percentage of 66.7 percent. Additionally, there wasn’t a single target that didn’t hit him in the hands, there were two notable drops that would have been sure touchdowns and another that was highly contested which would have also been a score.
This makes those catch percentages a little more reliable in my eyes, though he also made some pretty tough catches just the same. Despite not leading the team in any of these areas above, that doesn’t mean Allen isn’t a threat inside the twenty, just that he’s not the top threat thus far.
As we look at each of Allen’s targets inside the red zone – as well as his targets inside the 25 just for good measure – we’ll look into which option Allen was on his targets as well as any mitigating circumstances involved.
The first play (0:01) of the clip shows that Allen wasn’t technically the first read on the play, however, Luck used his eye movement towards Gore and Hilton (bottom of the screen) designed to freeze the safety in order to create some space for Allen to get open on the double move.
The next red zone play (0:22) is a read for Luck out of play action to determine whether Hilton (top of screen) can draw the corner and the linebacker with him throughout his route, or open him up if they stand pat. Option two of this play is Allen blocking and releasing to the area that was just vacated by Hilton – if the defenders follow Hilton, Allen gets the look and that’s exactly what happens here.
Red zone target No. 3 for Allen (0:59) is absolutely intended for him to be the initial target. This is a simple designed pick play – though Philip Dorsett doesn’t actually impede the defender in any way – in order to open Allen up to be all alone on a speed out to waltz into the end zone. It just doesn’t exactly go as planned.
Play four (1:11) is also a read for Luck. The play action is added to draw in the linebacker, which it does, and this leaves Doyle on a flat route and Allen on a corner route with only the cornerback to pick one to cover. Allen is actually the second read on this play, but the defenses response to the play action actually makes the decision for this pass.
Allen’s fifth red zone target (1:34) is based on matchup, but shows him third on the intended progression of the play. Luck’s first read is to Hilton on the out, followed by Moncrief on the dig, however, Allen is matched up against a linebacker and that changes the order of everything. Luck sees the safety coming down into the box, and as a result reads the single-high safety.
As the safety blitzes, Luck chooses to hold the ball for Allen to win his matchup down the field. As Allen reaches the top of his route, Luck is forced to climb the pocket and Allen breaks off his route and makes a secondary attempt to get open. Nice adjustment.
Allen’s next target (1:51) features him as the third option in the play. But, this is a perfect example of Scott Tolzien seeing Allen’s size, and matchup as the ideal option in this specific play. The first option in the progression is Rogers on a shallow drag, then second is Turbin coming out of the backfield releasing out the other direction. Allen works the inside linebacker deep enough and gives Tolzien the best success rate according to the defender’s coverage throughout the play.
At the 2:02 point in the clip you can see that Doyle is Luck’s initial look coming out of the backfield, but the double coverage causes Luck to look at his second option which is Hilton dragging across the field in the end zone. Hilton is also covered pretty tightly, but Allen who is, again, blocking and releasing to the vacated side of the field finds himself wide open and unaccounted for by the Jets’ defense.
Similar to others Allen wasn’t the initial read on this play, but he does pose one of the most trusted routes within the play. Hard to say he wasn’t one of the likely receivers within the design of the play – the disguise is obvious in order to create the easiest possible path to 6 points.
Allen’s next red zone target is nearly identical to that of the third one at the 0:59 mark in the clip. This one (2:42), however, is to the opposite side of the field – also used with Dorsett – and this time around Dorsett and the defender create enough of a barrier to allow Allen to separate from the coverage. Allen fails to haul in the pass though and misses out on another touchdown. Allen was absolutely the initial read on this one as well.
On Allen’s final red zone target (2:56), the first look is to the top of the screen with Moncrief and Hilton. Luck has to see who the corner goes with, then find the safety and which side of the field he’s rolling to. Allen is the third look and this all comes down to Luck threading the needle whether he targets Hilton on the vertical route, or Allen on the wiggle up the field.
Now, it strikes me as odd to limit his looks at that end of the field to just the 20 yard line, which is why I added the targets up to the 25 yard line as well in the video. When we look at those as well, we find that only Doyle and Hilton were targeted more, only Doyle had more catches and only Moncrief caught more touchdowns.
Adding just the extra five yards, Allen’s catch rate swells to 75 percent and he also caught the most first downs in this areas of the field amongst the receiving corps – just for some added context.
While I think it’s safe to say that Allen wasn’t the biggest red zone threat on the team, it’d be equally false to say that he wasn’t an important one. Allen was the first option only twice when targeted inside the 20 yard line, but was the second look five times. And when stretching out five yards to looking at plays inside the 25 yard line, Allen was the first look four times of those six additional targets.
With Doyle still on the roster, Moncrief emerging as another major target, Hilton getting a ton of looks in this area and the addition of Kamar Aiken – who is also a quality red zone threat – it appears as though the Colts will be well-positioned to overcome the loss of Allen for what he provides. Eric Swoope is unproven in this area simply due to a lack of experience, but his physical qualities will add to what he can provide in the upcoming season.
The Colts were phenomenal in the red zone in 2016, more importantly Andrew Luck was phenomenal. The cast of pass catchers will be a large portion of the success as they move forward without Allen, but despite his being a good option inside the 20, I think it’s reasonable to assume the Colts will fill the void relatively easily.
Will Allen be missed? Possibly. Will he be irreplaceable? No.
Matt Danely (@MDanely_NFL) is a contributor to @StampedeBlue, and host of the Locked On Colts Podcast (@LockedOnColts).