Chargers WR Keenan Allen Talks About Rookie QB Justin Herbert, Learning From Veterans, Facing the Broncos, and More
It has been a strange season in the NFL. It has been a strange season for the Chargers. New quarterback. Some critical injuries. Something that hasn't changed is the importance of the receiver who wears number 13.
Keenan Allen has been playing at a high level yet again. He has a new quarterback in rookie Justin Herbert. In week two against Kansas City, Herbert was thrown into the game last minute. He made several throws to Allen, and their relationship took off. Allen caught six passes for 96 yards.
In week three against the Carolina Panthers, the relationship continued to grow as Herbert completed 13 passes to Allen for 132 yards and a tightly squeezed touchdown pass.
It has grown consistently every week they have played. Last Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Allen was a big part of the offense and helping secure the rookie quarterbacks first NFL victory. Allen caught ten passes for 125 yards.
"It was great man, especially for him," explained Allen. "Just happy for him that he was able to get the W on the bright side of him playing well, as he's been doing these past couple of weeks. Just been coming up short, but we finally got him one. It's going to be big for him. I think he's just going to keep rising to the occasion. Keep getting better as games don't keep elevating and, we going to do something special."
It wasn't looking pretty at one point. After the Chargers went up 16-0, Jacksonville came storming back and took a 29-22 lead. The Bolts were able to turn the game around, something they hadn't been able to do during their four-game losing streak.
"We kept fighting," Allen said. "We just didn't want to leave without a W. We put it together as a team. We got it done."
Allen is considered one of the greatest route runners in the NFL. He has worked at his craft ever since his rookie year. He learned from the veterans on his team. He learned from receiver Malcolm Floyd about how to make difficult catches with a defensive back on top of them. He learned how to be shifty against the defensive back from Eddie Royal.
One of the teammates he learned from was former teammate Stevie Johnson. He was a member of the Chargers for two seasons. After practice, 13 and 11 would be on the practice field. Johnson was very good at coming out of his break, something that Allen has perfected.
"Mostly just about getting open, using leverage using techniques and understanding what the defense is playing," explained Allen. "Understand what it's going to give you and know how to attack it pretty much. Stevie was definitely one of the guys that I watched back when I was a rookie coming up. Eddie Royal, Gates, and with all those guys. So, he's been on a lot of teach tapes. So, you want to learn from those guys."
Former Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was a player that Allen gravitated to as well. The future hall of fame tight end was famous for using his body to shield the opposing defender, but Allen also picked up other things.
"Gates was really the technician," explained Allen. "Honestly, his route running was superb, and the head to head fakes, and his foot work was always amazing."
Allen is paying it back now that he is considered the veteran in the room.
Receivers Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, and others have raved about the leadership that Allen brings to the receiver's room. The former Cal alum is showing them what he learned.
"Still showing them those same techniques that I learned from," explained Allen. "The leverage, showing them how to see the defense. Just so they know like when they can really be licking their chops when they play. It's big once you know that we're getting the look that I'm supposed to be getting, and it's going to make it special when you can see that."
This weekend, Allen and his receivers will travel to Denver to face the division rival Broncos. That means a reunion between Allen and his former teammate running back Melvin Gordon. He signed a two-year deal with Denver after the Chargers let him walk.
"It was going to be fun," said Allen. "A lot of talking. A lot of playmaking. So, can't wait. Excited for it."
Allen has a history with the Broncos. Late in the season, in his rookie year, Allen hurdled two defenders to score a crucial touchdown that got his 9-7 Chargers in the playoffs. They faced the Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs. Allen's team was down 17-0 and came storming back behind his six catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Broncos ended up moving on.
After that, his battles with cornerback Chris Harris Jr. were legendary. The trash-talking between the two players was main event level.
In free agency, Harris joined the Chargers.
"I bet I won't get much trash talk out there. Going to miss it.," chuckled Allen.
Will there still be trash-talking between Allen and the Broncos?
"I'm going to say something for sure. I just don't know if somebody's going to say something back," said Allen with a smile on his face.
There will still be a pro bowl cornerback opposite Allen this weekend in A.J. Bouye. They have faced each other in the past, so they are familiar.
"AJ is a great athlete," explained Allen. "He's going to come out and compete. He's long, he's rangy, and he's a great cornerback. He understands his leverages; he understands where his help is, so it's going to be a great game."
The eight-year veteran has been at the top of his game this season, catching 44 passes for 481 yards and two touchdowns. He has been a reliable target since he was drafted in the third round in general manager Tom Telesco's first draft.
Allen knows what it has been like to suffer terrible head-scratching defeats, but he has also experienced the season changing wins.
"As soon as you get that one, there's no telling what the team's confidence can do with the morale around the locker room," said Allen. "We've been here before, so we will see."