Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen will need season-ending hip surgery, and this was a development that probably blindsided the majority of Colts- and NFL- fans. Allen was initially listed questionable for last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins before being downgraded to doubtful a day before the game. He did not play against the Dolphins, and the injury is so severe that the Colts second-year TE will need to miss the entire season in order to recover from surgery.
This injury is a big loss for the Indianapolis Colts, and it goes beyond simple pass-catching. As a whole, I think we tend to underrate elite blocking at the tight end position, and it’s a real shame. Some of the biggest plays are sprung by great TE blocks, and some of the best pass-catching TEs in the game are actually even better at blocking, and that’s what makes them so special (Rob Gronkowski is an example of that kind of player).
Call me crazy, but I honestly thought Dwayne Allen would become a Rob Gronkowski kind of player this season, because he has that mix of blocking and receiving ability. Allen is clearly one of the best young tight ends in the game, and he’s one of the best dual-threat TEs in the league. I know “dual-threat” is the tag that gets applied to quarterbacks who can run and pass, but I also like to use it as a descriptor for tight ends who can catch the football and block. Playing TE is a complicated position to play, especially in today’s NFL, because tight ends have to be able to run routes and catch like receivers whilst also learning to block like offensive linemen. While most TEs are not as proficient at receiving as a WR or as good at blocking as an OL, the fact that a TE like Gronkowski or Allen can be great at both is a huge boost to an offense.
That’s what makes tight ends so valuable, and that’s why teams like the New England Patriots put more of an emphasis on TEs than the norm. When a team like the Colts has a guy like Dwayne Allen, it just has a profound effect on the entire offense, because Allen can have a positive impact on the entire offense.
For example, Allen can pave the way for the running back at a high level, and that’s a simplistic example since run blocking (describing it, at least) is pretty simple. But in the passing game, Allen’s role becomes complex and differs based on what the Colts and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton want to do, and that can confuse a defense. The opposition won’t be able to tell if Allen is going to stay in and block (which he can do at a high level), or if he is going to go out for a pass. Since he’s great at both, the defense has to find some way to account for that, otherwise the Colts can quickly tell which way the defense is slanted and audible to take advantage of that.
I think I spoke enough about blocking and made it clear that I believe Dwayne Allen to be an excellent blocker, so I’d like to quickly go over some of his pass-catching numbers. Allen is a huge asset when going out to catch passes, because he can help open things up on the outside for Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, and he pretty much catches whatever is thrown at him. Last season, Allen caught over 70% of everything thrown at him (that’s terrific), he averaged well over five yards after the catch per reception (only Gronk was better), and Andrew Luck averaged 8.2 yards per attempt when throwing it to Allen.
Those are incredibly efficient numbers, and that was just Allen as a rookie. He would have made even more strides this season as a blocker, and he would have went from being a really good tight end to potentially being an elite TE and a star in this league. That’s the kind of player this league has lost for a season, and Allen’s quest for stardom and league-wide attention will, sadly, have to wait another year. Whenever a player as talented as Dwayne Allen is lost for the season, and I can’t help but feel that the injury robbed us of a chance to watch a very talented young player hone his craft and make the jump to elite.