Is Keenan Allen Still The Clear Number One Wide Receiver For The Chargers?
It’s like magic when Keenan Allen makes a catch. Maybe it’s Spidey-sense or some unspoken connection between Allen and the Quarterback, but I swear, sometimes it’s like he’s appearing out of thin air. His athleticism and power can be summed up in a catch last season, Week 11’s game vs Pittsburgh, where the ball is coming to his left side and he dives to make the completion, while a defender collides with his lower body. He’s just so good that nothing seems to faze him.
Allen has led the team in receiving yards five of the nine years he’s played and has this same psychic connection with Justin Herbert as he had with Philip Rivers. It seems like he’s everywhere at once. He’ll make the sideline grab, the jump catch, or look over his shoulder just enough to catch it in the corner of the end zone, dragging his feet to stay in bounds. Whether it’s recovering the fumble from Melvin Gordon during his 2017 season and running it in for a touchdown, or the pass to Herbert to make the 2-pt conversion during Week 13 of last season, Allen is multitalented, and in the last few years, it hasn’t really been up for debate who the primary wide receiver is for the Chargers. Well, that is until this past season.
Is Mike Williams Catching Keenan Allen?
Mike Williams is right on Allen’s heels. Not only have Williams’ receptions more than quadrupled since 2017 but so have his targets and his receiving yards, as he had the highest receiving yards of his career last season at 1,146. This past season was also the first time since 2016 that Allen hasn’t been the leader in receiving yards. Williams and Allen aren’t built too dissimilarly, Williams is 6’4’’ and 218 pounds while Allen is 6’2’’ and 211 but their play styles are very different.
When Williams was playing at Clemson, Anthony Messenger wrote for Fansided, “Williams gets in and out of his breaks very fast for a receiver of his stature. There is little wasted movement in his routes, which allows him to separate from faster defensive backs.” He has always won on the outside with his sheer athleticism, namely his physicality and vertical jump. However, this past season he really started to show signs of his evolution as a route runner. It seems that Allen’s prowess as a route runner has finally started to rub off on the former top-10 pick.
In 2021, Williams’ catch percentage was lower at 58.9% than Allen’s at 67.5% but because Allen has been such a rock for the team over the last few years, should we be worried about a potential decline? After all, he just turned 30.
While in season, Staley didn’t seem to be worried about Allen‘s dropped passes and maybe that’s the attitude we should all take based on Allen’s past performances. But, it is worth asking even if his catch percentage does improve, will it be enough to beat out Williams? Allen’s receiving touchdown number was back to where it was in 2019 at six while Williams was at nine. Allen still seemed to be favored by Herbert as he had significantly more targets but Williams wasn’t too far behind. And because Allen is a little older than Williams, it’s not unusual to think that he may get edged out here and there.
For now, I don’t believe we need to worry about a steep decline from Allen. However, the presence and development of Williams mean there could be a more legitimate debate during the coming season and beyond. It’ll be quite the show waiting to see who has the best 2022 season, so we all better grab some popcorn and get cozy on the couch for what is sure to be some interesting viewing.