Keenan Allen is destroying NFL secondaries. On Sunday in Baltimore he could conceivably pass his reception, yardage and touchdown total from the entire 2014 season in just 8 games. Allen doesn't want to be good. He wants to be great.
“I think it’s my role on the team to be great,” Allen said during the week of preparation for the Ravens game. “I’m the number one wide receiver. I have to make the plays that come my way and I’m trying to live up to it.”
After a breakout rookie season Allen's numbers dipped as a sophomore so he rededicated himself during the off-season.
“You just think that you’re good, that ‘I’ve got talent so I’ll get away with it,’” said Allen. “Nah, probably not.”
Allen admits he didn't do as much to prepare himself before the 2014 season. That sub-par year taught him the value of being consistent and doing the right things over and over again.
“Consistency is something you need, something you have to do to be great in this league or in anything really.”
His elder team-mates helped set that example for him.
“Just seeing (Eric) Weddle, (Antonio) Gates, Phil (Rivers). They’re here at 5:30 (in the morning). Weddle is in the weight room probably for like three hours after practice. Just putting in the work and dedicating yourself to your craft, it helps a lot.”
It's easy to see when Keenan Allen starts to feel like he's in one of those grooves. He plays with emotion. A yell to the crowd here, a dance move there and the bald, bearded beast is back.
“I’ve seen more of a daily focus, and I think that’s just growing as a pro,” said Rivers, the man who’s thrown Allen all but four of his 210 career receptions. “I think it’s learning what it learns to be daily focused. I think that more than anything, just the consistency in his approach, it’s obviously shown in his production on the field.”
Allen is on a pace to set the NFL's single season reception mark, which leads us to this week’s players to watch:
Keenan Allen, WR
(See all reasons above)
Danny Woodhead, RB
As Rivers likes to say, the Chargers are best when they’re balanced. As Melvin Gordon continues to work his way out of head coach Mike McCoy’s doghouse for fumbling, Woodhead will be the guy who gets the majority of the carries in high-pressure situations (Red Zone, 3rd and short, etc.). His reliability in both the pass and run game should help the Chargers control the ball; put together long drives, and perhaps this time finish in the end zone.
Joe Mays, ILB
No Manti Te’o, no Denzel Perryman means the Chargers are down to Donald Butler, Kavell Conner and Nick Dzubnar at inside linebacker. So they signed former Bronco Joe Mays during the week. He’s very likely going to get more than a few snaps in Baltimore. The Ravens are going to do what they’ve always done, come in with a run-first philosophy. Mays and co. will have to keep the gains small on early downs and force Joe Flacco to beat them in 3rd and long situations.
Rivers could go for another 400 yards against this Ravens defense that is not all that great against the pass. But, one thing really sticks out here:
Since 2008, when John Harbaugh became their head coach, the Ravens have never lost more than two games at home. They’ve already lost their first two at home. This team is simply too proud to drop three in a row at M&T Bank Stadium.
Final score: Ravens 33, Chargers 30