While scouting a game between the Cal Berkley Bears and USC in 2011, Tom Telesco was impressed by a sophomore receiver named Keenan Allen who caught a career-best 13 passes for 160 yards.
And when Allen was still on the board in the third round of the NFL Draft this past April, Telesco wasted little time selecting the talented receiver who was projected to be first-round pick prior to suffering a knee injury following his junior year. When Malcom Floyd was recently lost for the year with a neck injury, Allen assumed a starting role the past few weeks and has shown flashes of what kind of receiver he can become. MP reporter Art Garcia Jr. caught up with Allen prior to the Chargers late night game versus the Raiders to ask the rookie about his experience thus far in his NFL career.
AG: Thoughts on your 5 catch; 80-yard performance against the Cowboys and heading back up to your college stomping grounds (Cal Berkley) to face the Raiders.
KA: That was the biggest game of my career so far. (I’m) just going out there playing with confidence by doing the preparation, knowing the game plan and getting on the same page as Phil (Philip Rivers) to be able to make those plays. I’m excited to go back to the Bay area and play and see how many people I can get out there.
AG: So you feel you are getting more acclimated to the scheme where you and Philip can kind of give each other a look and know which direction he wants you to go?
KA: Yeah, definitely. As long as you know the game plan, you know the look the defense is giving you, you pretty much have a good feeling which way the ball is going.
AG: Most rookies find the biggest difference between college and the pro’s is the speed of the game. What has been your biggest adjustment to the NFL?
KA: I think that the guys are more patient while they’re out on the island. When they are pressing you, you have to work them more – you have to use your technique, use your hands and stuff like that (to break away from coverage). You can’t just go out there and run a route (and expect to be successful).
AG: Most scouts projected you to be a first-round pick before your knee injury. Prior to the Chargers selecting you in the third round, did you receive any calls from other teams telling you to be ready when they pick only to have them pick someone else?
KA: Oh, not that I know of because my agent had the phone. I mean he did say ‘get ready, Carolina’s coming up – I think they are going to call.’ He did say that, but they didn’t call so we waited for the next team to call and it was San Diego and I was (real) excited.
AG: How do you feel about your fit here – is it what you expected or did you think it would be different when they drafted you?
KA: I think I’m being used well; I think my role is well on the team and I think I’m being helped by my coach and offensive coordinator. I have guys to look up as well – Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Philip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. So I feel like I’m in a great position.
AG: Who were the receivers you admired growing up and do you compare or pattern your style to the way they played the game?
KA: I really didn’t (study) details or technique wise – I really didn’t watch anyone like that. The guys that I would look at were Calvin Johnson, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin – guys like that.
AG: A lot of kids dream about playing high school ball and college ball with a sibling, but you played both with your half–brother, how special was that and is he still playing?
KA: That was fun. I played with him in college, high school and pee wee’s – it was like playing backyard football out there. It was definitely fun playing with him and he just finished playing football in Germany – for a semi pro team, I think.
In their 27-17 loss to the Raiders, Allen caught a career high six passes for 115 yards and pulled in his first touchdown reception as a professional on an eight-yard slant pattern. According to RotoWorld, Allen was targeted nine times by Rivers (vs the Raiders) and put together two straight weeks of at least five receptions and 80 yards receiving. Allen could have easily had three touchdown receptions against the Raiders – instant replay overturned an earlier touchdown reception when it ruled he failed to get both feet in bounds and late in the game when he was open in the endzone, but Rivers pass was thrown behind him for an interception. Allen and the Chargers will face there toughest test of the season so far when they battle Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts this Monday in prime-time television. Let’s just hope that the 10,000 tickets available get sold to prevent a blackout. According to the UT’s Kevin Acee, the last time a Monday Night Football game was blacked out locally was a regular season finale between the Falcons and 49ers on Jan. 3, 2000.