Film review: Allen provides Patriots multi-faceted threat at tight end

Film review: Allen provides Patriots multi-faceted threat at tight end

During a conference call with reporters last week, tight end Dwayne Allen certainly sounded like a perfect match for the Patriots.

"One thing that I’ve caught on to early," Allen said, "is coach [Bill] Belichick’s saying of, ‘The more you can do.’ I’m just about winning. I want to win and I understand that the more skills I can provide the offense, then hopefully the more mismatches that can be created for myself and other players.

"That’s what I’m about. I’m excited to be utilized as a football player again and not be confined to any box, but just to be a football player, a tight end."

His comments seemed to indicate that there was something about his usage in Indy that he wasn't all too fond of.

Maybe it was the fact that he went from being used in almost 80 percent of his team's offensive snaps as a rookie in 2012 to being used in about 60 percent of snaps from 2014-16 after suffering a season-ending hip injury early in his second season. Maybe it was the fact that he never averaged more than four targets in a game in the last three years. Maybe he wanted to block more. 

As a member of the Colts, the 6-foot-3, 265-pounder was lauded both by Belichick and Matt Patricia for his abilities as a blocker and a receiver. Now with the Patriots, he'll have a chance to start fresh in New England with a coaching staff that will jump at the chance to use him in a variety of situations.

After watching Allen's film from 2016, here are some of the ways in which the Patriots may see him chipping in...


Allen's versatility as a blocker and a receiver could make him an especially valuable weapon when things get a little more cramped near opposing goal lines. He can move people off the line of scrimmage (we'll get to that later), or he can box out defenders to create his own openings as a receiver. 

With the Colts, Allen seemed to consistently put some doubt in the heads of opponents who weren't sure whether they should treat him as a legitimate receiving threat or an extra tackle. Those who left him alone (the Jets, Lions and Bears were all culprits last season) paid the price. 

Against the Jets, a three-touchdown game for Allen, his first score came on Indy's first drive. During that series, Allen blocked both Mohammed Wilkerson (in the running game) and David Harris (in pass protection) one-on-one at different points. Allen also served as a lead-blocker on an end-around and looked to tangle with a linebacker or safety on the play immediately before his score. 

When the Colts ran a little throwback screen -- with Allen acting like a blocker at the line of scrimmage before releasing over the middle -- the Jets let him slip right through their coverage. 

Though Allen won't be one of New England's top one or two receiving threats, if the Patriots can lull opposing defenses to sleep when it comes to his abilities as a receiver -- as seemed to happen at MetLife last season -- they'll take full advantage. 


Allen probably won't be found outside the numbers all that often the way Rob Gronkowski can be, but he's an effective pass-catcher when used in-line or out of the slot. 

Many of his catches last season came while working the middle of the field against linebackers. Angle routes, seam routes and over routes all had varying degrees of success. Even when he didn't have the quickness advantage on a defender, Allen used his body and a dependable set of hands to finish off plays when the separation was minimal. 

Against Pittsburgh's Lawrence Timmons, Allen had his way by simply running crisp, clean routes. Timmons signed with the Dolphins last week and is scheduled to see the Patriots twice after seeing them twice in 2016.


Allen may not be considered a regular big-play threat, but he showed last season that he has enough speed and athleticism to get down the field and pick up sizeable gains. 

In Week 17 against the Jaguars, he was left alone as he faked a corner route and bent back toward the middle of the field. Andrew Luck's throw was high, but Allen jumped up, secured the football, and held on as he hit the ground for a 15-yard touchdown. 

Against the Jets in Week 13, Allen moved down the seam with rookie linebacker Darron Lee (4.47-second 40-yard dash at the combine last year) all over him. When Luck spotted the one-on-one coverage, he didn't hesitate to rip one to his big tight end. Again, Allen showed his athleticism by leaving his feet, turning to his back shoulder, and hauling in the pass with Lee in his face. 

Allen won't be challenging Brandin Cooks or Chris Hogan as the resident Fastest Man in the Building, but he has the ability to make explosive plays in the right situations.


Allen's blocking ability over the course of the last two seasons may not have been what it was earlier in his career. As a rookie, he was the NFL's top-graded blocking tight end, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2014, after an injury-shortened 2013, he finished as the No. 9-graded blocker. Since then he hasn't cracked the top-50, but has still shown he has the ability to make impact blocks. 

Against the Broncos in Week 2, he cracked down on outside linebacker Shane Ray to give running back Robert Turbin an opening for his five-yard touchdown. Against the Packers in Week 9, he cleared a lane for Frank Gore by sealing off linebacker Nick Perry one-on-one on the left edge.  

It's clear why the Patriots made the move for Allen before the free-agency period began. Not only is he valuable insurance for their All-Pro, often-injured No. 1 tight end. At his best, Allen offers the team exactly what it covets at the position in terms of being a true dual threat who will have value as one of the 11 in the offensive huddle no matter the situation.

Brady at bottom of ESPN's 'Dominant 20' list

Brady at bottom of ESPN's 'Dominant 20' list

Yet another ESPN list is out and Tom Brady - despite his five Super Bowl titles and his place as arguably the greatest player in America's most popular sport - again can't seem to break into the upper echelon.

Brady, who was deemed the 21st most popular athlete by the network last year in the "Fame 100", comes in at the bottom of its "Dominant 20, a list of the most dominant athletes of the past 20 years put together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ESPN The Magazine.

So, Brady checks in at the final spot, with a "Dominance Ranking" of 6.3, just behind boxer Manny Pacquiao (6.5). 

Here's part of their mathematical formula for the rankings, which must've hurt their heads to come up with as much as it will hurt yours to read.

"...Then we rated those sports' athletes in each of the past 20 regular seasons by the best single performance metric available, adjusted these ratings to normalize athletes' scores in each sport across time, narrowed our focus to the top four athletes each year in every sport, then adjusted the data again to put these players, across sports, on a common baseline..."

Oh, and Peyton Manning is No. 3 (Dominance Ranking of 12.7) on the list.

Here's the full 20:
1. Tiger Woods, golf (17.0)
2. LeBron James, NBA (15.6)
3. Peyton Manning, NFL (12.7)
4. Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR (12.0)
5. Roger Federer, tennis (10.6)
6. Annika Sorenstam, golf (10.3)
7. Michael Schumacher, Formula 1 (10.2)
8. Floyd Mayweather, boxing (10.1)
9. Marta, soccer (9.8)
10. Usain Bolt, track (9.5)
11. Lionel Messi, soccer (8.9)
12. Serena Williams, tennis (8.9)
13. Lauren Jackson, WNBA (8.3)
14. Cristiano Rinaldo, soccer (8.2)
15. Novak Djokovic, tennis (8.0)
16. Alyson Felix, track (7.3)
17. Barry Bonds, MLB (7.1)
18. Mike Trout, MLB (7.1)
19. Manny Pacquiao, boxing (6.5)
20. Tom Brady, NFL (6.3)

ESPN also ranked the most dominant teams of the past 20 years, based on their single-season dominance figured into another mind-numbing formula. Last season's Golden State Warriors take the title, just ahead of the legendary 2003-02 Australian men's national cricket team (really) and the 1998 New York Yankees.   

First from New England on the list are UConn's undefeated 2014 women's basketball national champs at No. 6. Geno Auriemma's 2000 champs, who went 36-1, are 20th. Brady's 2004 Pats, who beat the Eagles in Super Bowl 39, take the 15th spot, just ahead of the 2007 Red Sox, who swept the Colorado Rockies for their second World Series title of that decade. 


Curran: Ranking the Patriots imports so far

Curran: Ranking the Patriots imports so far

Did you know today (Tuesday) is the International Day of Happiness?

Cheese, willow trees, pool basketball in the pool, a newly-mowed-lawn and briefly turning off my headlights while driving down a dark, narrow street to scare my passengers. Those are things that make me happy.

It’s good timing.

The first few days of NFL free agency (and the legalized flirting that preceded it) created a level of unhappiness in New England because of all the exports.

All made stupid money that the Patriots really couldn’t ante up, but the contributions of Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Butler were such that a shrug and “What are ya gonna do...?” would have been an insufficient response.

So there was flipping out.

But in honor of IDOH, let’s look at imports and rank them in order of projected usefulness. It’s a happy exercise because there’s upside to each of the six signings.


A league source told me this is a Patriots 1.0 type of signing – one of those high-character players who has a well-defined strength as an edge-setter/pass-rusher. When the Patriots brought in James Harrison at the end of the 2017 season, that was their acknowledgment they didn’t have a complementary edge player opposite Trey Flowers. Clayborn’s a decade younger than Harrison, has been durable and – at 6-3, 280 – has plenty of size to bow up when attacked on the ground. The team never sufficiently replaced Rob Ninkovich and Chris Long last year (their planned move of Dont'a Hightower to the edge went kaput when he had to move back to linebacker and then got hurt). Clayborn should help do that.


McCourty was having one of the best seasons of a good career in Cleveland before an ankle injury in practice knocked him out of action last October. So, it stands to reason that there’s plenty left in the tank for Devin McCourty’s twin brother as he joins the Patriots on a very manageable deal ($3 million). He’s a free agent at the end of the year. The Super Bowl was an embarrassment for the Patriots defense. For reasons still unexplained, the team couldn’t risk putting a former Pro Bowl corner who’d played 98 percent of his team’s snaps all year on the field. And the resulting Malcolm Butler Shuffle which put Patrick Chung out of position and Jordan Richards and Jonathan Bademosi on the field cost the team a title. It boils down to Bill Belichick not believing he could count on Butler. Whatever. Jason McCourty’s an Eagle Scout, he’s never played in a playoff game and he’s happy to be in New England. He could be equal to or better than Eric Rowe and his presence – along with Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones – gives the team nice corner depth.  


This is like the McCourty deal in a way. Just as the Patriots' patience ran out with Butler, so too did it run out with Alan Branch. And vice versa, it seemed to me. The offbeat Branch was an incredibly impactful and valuable defensive tackle for the Patriots. Belichick gushed about how Branch was far-and-away their most impactful defensive lineman in 2016. And by 2017 he was a healthy scratch several times and was in street clothes for the Super Bowl while LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi ran wild. Shelton is a decade younger and while he’s smaller than the 6-6, 350-pound Branch (Shelton’s “just” 6-2, 335), he also isn’t world/NFL-weary in the same way Branch seemed to be. As the 12th overall pick in 2015, Shelton didn’t make the impact expected there. We’ve heard scheme and the Browns’ general suckitude as being the reason, but some of it has to come back to Shelton too who – Cleveland writers told me – has a tendency to lose technique in games and wear down. Huge upside potential at a position of need.


Kick returners have diminishing importance in the NFL thanks to the rule changes of the past few years but they aren’t extinct yet. And Patterson is among the most explosive in the league. Dion Lewis had a 103-yard kickoff return last year. He averaged 21.1 on his other 22 returns. Patterson averaged 26.3. He can also cover punts which the Patriots will need if they intend to let Matt Slater go. His presence on offense will command attention as a gadget guy (jet sweeps, jailbreak screens) and downfield decoy. He also has had some ballhandling issues so that’s worth watching as well. Here's Phil Perry on what the Patriots are getting in Patterson. 


Tobin was a walk-on at the University of Iowa. He was an undrafted free agent that made the Eagles in 2013. I mention this as proof the guy – who has now spent five seasons in the NFL – has a penchant for doing more than anticipated. The 6-foot-6 Tobin isn’t going to replace Nate Solder. I don’t think the Patriots are pretending that he can. But with Solder gone and Cam Fleming/La’Adrian Waddle both still free agents, the Patriots need reinforcements not just at starter but as depth. Tobin will serve as that. Greg Bedard at the Boston Sports Journal (subscription required) went deep on Tobin. In short, Matt Tobin draws a shrug from me.


Poor Jeremy Hill. The fumble Pittsburgh’s Ryan Shazier forced Hill to commit in the 2016 AFC Divisional Playoffs led to impossibly anguished wailing from Hill and a satisfyingly painful loss for Hill’s detestable Bengals. It also allowed the Patriots to defeat the just-as-loathsome Steelers in the AFC Championship a week later. None of that has anything to do with what Hill may bring to the Patriots. But the fumble perhaps led to the drafting of Joe Mixon last April which led to Hill realizing his Cincy days were numbered and may have led to his deciding to have ankle surgery which Marvin Lewis strongly disagreed with Hill having. Hill, 25, comes to the Patriots as a goal-line, short-yardage threat who scored 29 touchdowns in 46 games for Cincy before last year’s abbreviated, low-impact season. He’ll either be better than Mike Gillislee or worse and the guy who loses that showdown probably gets released.