Film Review: What Dwayne Allen Brings To the Patriots

The Patriots have done us all a solid over the last week. After making a flurry of headline grabbing moves at the beginning of the free agency period things have slowed down a bit, at least for now, at One Patriot Place.

Lost in the mix somewhat has been the acquisition of former Colts tight end Dwayne Allen. Allen, was the hot topic in New England for less than 24 hours, but brings a unique skill set to the team much like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore.

There are three strengths in particular that Allen possesses that make him such a great fit in the Patriots offense. One, Allen is well thought of as a blocker and is also a versatile blocker in the run game. Two, the Patriots new tight end has the ability to make contested catches on passes above his head which makes him a big time red zone threat. Three, Allen has elite quickness for a tight end especially on routes in the middle of the field, a huge plus.

Let’s take a look at how Allen used those three strengths to beat defenses in the past.

Go Up And Get It In Traffic

As you’ve probably heard by now Dwayne Allen is an elite red zone threat at the tight end position. According to NFL Network Research, Allen has had an extremely impressive touchdown rate in his career, ranking among the league’s best tight ends since entering the NFL.

Many of Allen’s touchdown grabs in 2016 were on throws above his head that Allen came down with in traffic. Here are two examples:

Allen’s biggest statistical output of the season came in a primetime game against the Jets late in the season. The Jets played one of the worst games on defense of any team in the NFL last season in this one, but Allen did make a nice catch on this play.  Allen gets a step on Jets linebacker Darron Lee and has no problem going up to haul in the catch. Lee does a nice job to recover on the play and make it a contested catch, but Allen is unfazed.

Here’s another example of Allen converting a high pass from Andrew Luck into a touchdown in the red zone. It’s zone coverage for the Jags in the red zone which is becoming more prevalent in the NFL these days. Allen runs free on his initial move and the safety is late coming over, but Allen takes a shot and is still able to get up and make the catch.

It’s not just in the red zone that Allen can use his jumping ability to bring down catches. Here, he get’s nice separation on a post route in the middle of the field. He makes up for a pass that’s a little bit over thrown by Andrew Luck with his ability to catch the ball above his head. Allen in instances like this is an accuracy eraser. When he gets that separation he can be a quarterbacks best friend when a pass gets away from him.

Working The Middle

Whenever discussing the X’s and O’s of the Patriots offense you have to include how important receivers that can work the middle of the field are to the team. Allen fits that mold at the tight end position as a guy with elite quickness for a player at his position. In short, Allen has shown the ability to make linebackers look foolish trying to cover him when he shows off his quick feet in route running.

The first linebacker that fell victim to Allen’s unique start/stop ability was Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead. Allen breaks Whitehead’s ankles with a great fake on hitch and go in the middle of the field. Allen not only shows the quick feet to pull a route like this off, but also does a great job selling the fake at the top of the route. That combination gives Allen an easy way to get separation.

Another linebacker that couldn’t handle Allen’s quickness was Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Timmons. To be fair to Timmons, as the Patriots exploited in the AFC Championship Game, he probably shouldn’t be expected to cover so much at this stage of his career. Allen makes him look silly on this catch with a route that we see Julian Edelman run on a weekly basis in New England. There just isn’t a lot of tight ends in the NFL that can shake linebackers that easily at 250 pounds.

The Patriots are technicians when attacking defenses in the middle of the field, and you can add Allen to the growing list of options the Patriots will have in 2017 to do just that. It’s easy to see Allen running those inside option routes that have been a staple for years in New England.

Blocking

Depending on who you ask Allen took a step backwards in this regard in 2016, but dating back to his days at Clemson he has been considered a very good blocking tight end. Allen should, in theory, replicate Martellus Bennett’s production in the run game.

To show what Allen can do as as blocker let’s first go back to the 2015 season against the Patriots. The Colts implement a power run blocking scheme that the Patriots often use as well. They use Allen, the tight end, to kick inside and block the defensive tackle at the line of scrimmage, in this case old friend Sealver Siliga. Allen’s ability to get to that block and make it an effective one allows center Khaled Holmes to work up to the linebacker, which springs running back Frank Gore for a big gain. This is an action Allen will certainly be asked to do with the Patriots.

One element about Allen as a blocker that makes him unique is his ability to lead block out of the backfield. Early on in his career the Colts actually listed Allen at fullback as well as tight end. The Patriots obviously already have a terrific fullback on the roster in James Develin, but scheme versatility is always plus. The Patriots can use Allen both as a lead blocker and a pass catcher out of the backfield to keep defenses guessing.

Brandin Cooks certainly will be the most dynamic offensive player the Patriots acquired this offseason, but Dwayne Allen will quietly make plays that will pay huge dividends.

Another part of this move that makes it so intriguing is that Allen is under contract for three more seasons, and is just 27 years old. With Rob Gronkowski’s injury concerns the Patriots got themselves another #1 tight end that could be Gronk insurance in New England for awhile.