Oct 14, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) and receiver Keenan Allen (13) embrace at the end of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Colts 19-9. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Can Rivers-Allen be the top pass-catching duo in the NFL?


Jan 12, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen (13) catches a touchdown pass in the third quarter against Denver Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer (23) during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos beat the Chargers 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 12, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen (13) catches a touchdown pass in the third quarter against Denver Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer (23) during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos beat the Chargers 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

What a year Keenan Allen had. Allen finished the season with 71 receptions for 1,046 yards, the sixth-most by a rookie in NFL history. He also hauled in eight touchdowns, which is third-most by a rookie in the NFL as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Allen was locked in as the No. 10 rated receiver with a +17.0 grade. Ever hear the name A.J. Green from the Cincinnati Bengals? Yeah, Allen beat out that A.J. Green.

Philip Rivers didn’t do too bad either. He won AP Comeback Player of the Year, finishing the year with 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns. He showed great poise in the pocket and led the league in completion rate (69.5). After so many years of playing the vertical game with Vincent Jackson, Rivers-to-Allen consisted of 3-step drop, quick-decision passing. Now the question is, can the combo of Rivers/Allen grow into elite status?

Allen only dropped five of the 104 passes sent his way, catching 68.3 percent of balls from Rivers which ranked best among all receivers targeted at least 75 times, per PFF. Another stat line I found impressive was that Allen forced 13 missed tackles. He gained an INSANE 10.1 yards per play his rookie year, too. Essentially, he had a better rookie campaign than those who developed into elite wide receivers.

Calvin JohnsonRookie8.015.820138.113.3
Brandon MarshallRookie7.915.020138.013.0
A.J. GreenRookie9.216.320138.014.6
Julio JonesRookie10.0917.820139.814.1
Dez BryantRookie8.712.520138.313.3
Demaryius ThomasRookie7.312.9201310.0715.5
Keenan AllenRookie/201310.114.7
AYG - Average Yards Gain
Y/R - Yards Per Reception



DYAR means a wide receiver with more total value. DVOA means a wide receiver with more value per play.

Football Outsiders put Keenan Allen at No. 8 out of 90 qualifying players in DYAR, the third highest DYAR season for a rookie ever behind Randy Moss (1998) and Michael Clayton (2004). If you take a look at other top-notch receivers who broke 1,000 yards in 2013 like Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and even T.Y. Hilton, their targets are much higher than Allen’s. Allen had phenomenal production with such a small amount of attempts which caused his value to rise. Football Outsiders ranked him at No. 6 in DVOA at 351 yards (YAR). His eight touchdown catches pushed him up the charts as well as finishing fourth in yards after the catch per reception.

For example, Green had 1,426 yards, but he ranked No. 24 in DVOA because of his 178 targets and low catch rate (completed only 55 percent); while Allen caught 68 percent of balls thrown his way with 104 targets.

In another comparison,  Josh Gordon, who led the entire league with 1,646 actual yards, ranked directly behind Allen in DVOA at 336 yards. Of the 159 targets, Gordon was only able to catch 55 percent, dropping his value (in his defense it is hard when a four-year-old can throw better than Brandon Weeden).


In reality, when a receiver has a 1,000 yard season, he is instantly dubbed as one of the top receivers. Pierre Garcon, who had 1,346 yards, appeared to have a great season (which I’m not taking anything away from him), but the “1,000 yard” mark is overrated. Garcon ranked No. 45 in DYAR and and No. 37 in DVOA (-5.2%).

A positive DVOA represents a situation that favors the offense, while a negative DVOA represents a situation that favors the defense.

Even though Garcon was tied with Andre Johnson for the most targets (181) and had an above average catch rate (62 percent), he only hauled in five for touchdowns, hurting his value. In comparison, his 11.1 yards per catch were 4 yards fewer than Allen’s 14.7. It goes to show you it’s not how many yards you can rack up, but what you do when you have the ball in your hands.


Below are the quarterback numbers when throwing to their guy: Romo-Bryant, Manning-Thomas, Dalton-Green, Cutler-Marshall, Ryan-Jones, Stafford-Johnson and Rivers-Allen. 

Picture 62

Picture 60

Picture 59

Picture 58

Picture 57

Picture 63

Picture 54

As seen above, Rivers has a 114.8 quarterback rating when throwing to Allen. Allen quickly built a rapport with Rivers and the comfortability, arguably the most important aspect, is there. To add on to their recognition, PFF ranked Rivers No. 43 and Allen No. 63 on their top 101 list of 2013.

As for the others..Brandon Marshall has consistentely been one of the best wide receivers since 2007. He has posted at least 1,000 yards every year since his sophmore year. A.J. Green has broke 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons with Dalton at the helm. Offensive coordinater Hue Jackson already dubbed them as the NFL’s best combination. Demaryius Thomas ranked No. 1 in DYAR in 2013 and led all wide receivers with 14 touchdowns. And Calvin Johnson? Well he’s Calvin Johnson.

I absolutely believe Keenan Allen will ascend to the top in a year. Now to say he will be the next Randy Moss would be a little too optimistic, especially being that Allen has only one (great) year under his belt; but I can’t wait to see what he does for the next decade in (hopefully) a Chargers uniform. The NFL better take notice, because the Rivers-to-Allen combo will be coming at you like a hurricane.



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Tags: Keenan Allen Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers

  • Cgoodness13

    Probably, I saw Rivers miss him a couple of times when he was wide open, with more chemistry between Rivers and Allen, Floyd back, and Brown getting more time to study we should have a dominate passing game

  • Gunnar Martin

    History is definitely on our side in this case. There haven’t been too many guys that have flopped after having a 1,000 yard season in their rookie year, as far as I know. The other names up there that did what he did already in his career make me feel really good about his future.

  • trinity

    Nope. Top 10 maybe. To be number 1, they have to top Peyton and Demaryius, Cutler and Marshall, Cutler and Jeffrey, Dalton and green, Stafford and Johnson, Ryan and Jones, Ryan and white, Rogers and Nelson, Brady and Edelman, Luck and Hilton, and Brees and whatever reciever on the squad he chooses. That’s off the top of my head. They could possibly be top 10, but number 1 overall isn’t going to happen.

  • afroamongfew

    I would feel more comfortable about Allen and Rivers’ prospects to be an elite-caliber duo if the WR2 situation didn’t hinge on Malcom Floyd staying healthy (and whether Floyd is a good fit in an offense that radically changed from the last time he saw the field in week 2).

    • arnie

      I hear yah, enter doubleG, Gates/Green in a 2 TE set.The key is the slot, which is where doubleG can kill it underneath the safeties. This would allow them to move Royal, VB, Tutu outside to fill the role as Allen’s wingman. Or Green could line-up outside…the Chargers have options.

    • Sergio Quintero

      Lets remember Floyd’s injury was a freak weird occurrence in his history, he has had the injuries that put him out 2-3 weeks but this is the only one that cost him a full season to a major injury, he has been a starter since 2008, he played 66 games from ’08 to ’12, the years without the freak injury, that comes out to 13.2 games. If the law averages goes in the chargers favor and they get 13 games or more from Floyd I like their WR situation.

  • James Edwards

    “In another comparison, Josh Gordon, who led the entire league with 1,646 actual yards, ranked directly behind Allen in DVOA at 336 yards. Of the 159 targets, Gordon was only able to catch 55 percent, dropping
    his value (in his defense it is hard when a four-year-old can throw better than Brandon Weeden).”

    Brandon Weeden to Josh Gordon: 31/44 (70%) 660 yds (15.00 avg) 4 TDs/0 INT
    Brian Hoyer to Josh Gordon: 14/28 (50%) 217 yds (7.75 avg) 1 TD/1 INT
    Jason Campell to Josh Gordon: 42/86 (49%) 769 yds (8.94 avg) 4 TDs/1 INT

    Gordon struggled with Hoyer and Campbell, not Weeden.

  • Stefanie Smith

    What’s really weird is how so many sports writers frame the WR position as if there was a limit to how many receivers can be on the roster. I just read an article on NFL Spin Zone and the guy was wondering whether Floyd or Brown should be kept . Come on now. Then I go to NFL.com and they are talking about the Colts –and one of their WRs got suspended for a year. Then the article goes on to say… Colts will be okay because they have 5 receivers on their roster.

    We don’t have to limit ourselves to 2. Keep all of them and have some depth. This will also keep our opponents guessing. Not saying that this article suggests keeping only two, but it got me thinking.

  • Alter Ego

    If they are a top 10 duo…I’ll take it. Woodhead caught 76 passes from River’s last year and scored 8 TDs too.
    Man I love our team.

    • Stefanie Smith

      Exactly. I want everyone around that can make plays..have an impact.

    • Alter Ego

      Here is something to think about – in NFL history these are the top WRs in reception yards after two years in the league…Allen has a shot of making the top 5…maybe more :

      Randy Moss… 2726 …1998-1999
      Jerry Rice…….2497…. 1985-1986
      Josh Gordon..2451……2012-2013
      Torry Holt ……2423…..1999-2000
      AJ Green…… 2407…. .2011-2012

      Keenan Allen….1046 rookie year.

      • http://www.mpagels.weebly.com Matt Pagels

        Great add on! Even though this is in the comment section it still adds to the piece. Good stuff.

  • arnie

    Well I could offer my opinions, or we could just let the facts speak for themselves. From the top, who is running things? How successful has the offense been? And what do they do best?
    Mike McCoy is the HC, that put together a coaching staff, then took a team, that wasn’t ready to compete, (said norv) and “overachieved”. To be clear, when McCoy took over, the Chargers had no O-line, their best WR was in tampa, the other one never completed a season, the new one had 5 surgery’s on his ACL. Also his star RB was approaching “bust” status, and his QB was “broken”, or just overrated, which ever you prefer. The cherry on top? The 3rd pick, a WR from Cal was recovering from knee surgery. Awesome.

    To the question at hand. Yes they can. Why? Matt did all the heavy lifting, here is the rest….
    The Chargers Passing game needed two things to have success. An O-line that could protect Rivers, and run the football. The facts support both goals were met. What they learned? Allen can not do it alone. They addressed the need at RB when RM24 was missed. They brought in more looks at WR to pair with Allen, then they added more hands form the backfield and TE to take the pressure from Allen. This is important, the more threats the offense can generate, the less double coverages Allen will get. He can beat his guy one-on-one. Add to that the entire starting O-line is returning with “upgrades” as depth.

    The Chargers love to grind up that clock, with short passes or running the ball. It doesn’t matter what other teams did, they were going to grind you down. Rivers, the “overrated one” carved up the defenses all season and always gave his team a chance to win the game. The team in 12′ was one dimensional, in 13′ they showed diversity. Now a year wiser under the new system what evidence shows they will not?

    • http://www.mpagels.weebly.com Matt Pagels

      Love everything you just said. In my last article for over/unders, I said keenan would have more touchdowns (a better year in general) with Floyd back in to help take the pressure off. The coaching staff completely turned it around, added depth to an already talented and underrated team. I literally cannot wait for this season to begin

      • arnie

        Thanks Matt. This is something that is starting to sink for Charger fans, This is not aj/norvs team anymore. The organization has gone through “real” changes, and those changes showed up on the field, the draft an FA. The sad thing, some of the players that I would like to see on the 53 man roster, an probably should be, won’t make it. I guess that is a good problem to have.
        Great article….

    • Sergio Quintero

      One of your best posts I have read Arnie, completely agree

      • arnie

        Thanks for the love Sergio, i’ve been busy so i’m trying to shake the rust off. Context baby.

  • Robert Fairbanks

    That is history, with Floyd actually playing Allen may not get the catches. As long as the Bolts do better this year, a team effort is more important than individual stats.

  • Sergio Quintero

    First off the chargers are not the Broncos, Saints & Falcons, where their QB is throwing the ball 50 times a game, so that is the first limitation for stat purposes, Rivers has history of spreading the football and not forcing to a particular player in terms of targets, I can’t remember in Rivers entire tenure, having a receiver in the top 10 in terms of targets.

    Will Allen be in the top 10 in catches in yards yes, will he putting up 1,500 yards plus with over 100 catches that I find it very unlikely, the averages for the final 13 games in which he was a full time starter are:
    (5.23 catches), (78.15 yards) which at 16 game season comes out to: 84 rec, 1,250 yards 10 TD’s, those sounds just about right.

    • http://www.mpagels.weebly.com Matt Pagels

      I understand what you’re saying and I agree with you except that Allen doesn’t need to post 1,500 yards/over 100 catches to be elite. Jordy Nelson had 1200 yards/96 catches (he was one of 3 in the top 16 with under 100 catches) in 2011 and was the No. 2 rated receiver according to FO, putting Rodgers-Nelson in the top combo conversation. So essentially even if Rivers spreads the ball around to ALL receivers, Rivers-to-Allen could still potentially be in the elite conversation.

      • Sergio Quintero

        In the periphals its possible, in the raw stats total recs & yards, my argument is more directed at those stats.

        • arnie

          True. There in lies the issue, which stats do we pick to support our claims? There are other factors that cannot be recorded on a stat sheet, and it’s important to not over look them.
          If the offensive scheme is more “aggressive” an Allen see’s a lot of one-on-one’s, Rivers will see it and have more trust in Allen can make a play. If they choose the ground an spread it around approach the numbers may not be there to support it, and the “talking heads” will follow the numbers like lemmings.

  • RZorn

    They spread the Ball around too much…which is a good thing,so there’s no way they can be number one,but I’ll take it!