On the heels of Martellus Bennett’s departure (before his return) earlier this offseason, most felt the Patriots found more than an adequate replacement. Barely a month after winning the Super Bowl the Patriots shipped off a fourth-round pick to the Colts in exchange for tight end, Dwayne Allen and a sixth-round pick.
Patriots fans quickly moved on from Bennett. They envisioned a more athletic and better pass-catching tight end receiving passes from Tom Brady in 2017. Allen, drafted by the Colts in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was coming off a year in which he hauled in six touchdown passes. His 35 catches and 406 receiving was his best year since his All-Rookie campaign in 2012. That year, he caught 42 balls for 527 yards. His career high in touchdowns came just three years ago when he hauled in eight.
He was doing this at times with Andrew Luck. However, there was also a steady dose of guys like Scott Tolzien and Matt Hasselbeck. No offense to Hasselbeck. Now, the prospect of catching passes from Tom Brady brought high expectations for Allen. However, things did not start the way he had hoped. In hindsight, it was evident early on as Allen dropped the very first pass attempt of the season.
As the Patriots stumbled out of the gate, Allen was targeted five times through four games. He didn’t catch a pass. Then, during the first four games of the Patriots current eight-game winning streak, Allen wasn’t targeted a single time. He essentially vanished from the offensive gameplan. Then, the Patriots re-acquired Martellus Bennett when he hit the waiver wire.
The move seemed to light a fire under Allen. The veteran tight end finally broke through with his first catch of the season against the Broncos. It also happened to be his first touchdown of the season for Allen. A tremendous weight was lifted from his shoulders.
“Getting the first catch out of the way…I felt like the ball was beating me up or I was beating the ball up,” said Allen after the win against the Broncos. “I wasn’t catching it. The catch felt amazing. It felt amazing to get that monkey off my back and start going and heading in a positive direction. And again, it’s all about consistency.”
Allen has now caught a pass in four consecutive games. Including a two-catch, 24-yard performance against the Raiders. Although the overall stat line for Allen is still underwhelming, the confidence that has been building is bound to pay off.
“As Tom likes to say, everything builds on top of each other from offseason to spring training, etc. etc., the same way the season is building,” Allen said. “I’m better equipped physically, mentally now compared to Week 5. I have a better grasp of the offense now.”
With Bennett’s return to the Patriots short-lived and Rob Gronkowski set to miss the game against the Dolphins, Allen has the opportunity right in front of him. Although no one man can replicate what Gronkowski does on the field, Allen can mitigate the loss if he plays to the level he is accustomed to. After gaining confidence in himself and most importantly gaining the confidence of Tom Brady, the sky is once again the limit.
With four weeks remaining in the season, now is as good of a time as ever for Allen to make is mark as a Patriot. Well, in the regular season at least. The only way to truly shape your legacy with the Patriots is to accomplish great things in the playoffs. Allen has five weeks to prepare for that.