Sep 8, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen (83) scores a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Potential Colts X-Factor: Dwayne Allen

For every NFL team, there is always that one non-quarterback player on offense that never gets the recognition, despite what he means to the team. It’s often an interior lineman, backup running back, or an under-utilized receiver.

But for the Indianapolis Colts, the X-Factor is the starting tight end, Dwayne Allen, and we have hardly glimpsed his potential.

When Allen went down with an injured hip in Indianapolis’s Week 1 victory over the Oakland Raiders, the buzz about his play immediately died down due to him not being on the field. Now that the hip is ready to go, Allen looks to pick up right where he left off after the 2012 season.

As a rookie out of Clemson in 2012, Allen hauled in 45 receptions for 521 yards and three touchdowns in his first season. He would go on to combine with fellow then-rookies T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Vick Ballard and LaVon Brazill to break the NFL record for most yards gained by rookies since the 1970 NFL merger (3,108).

Many regarded Allen as one of the better tight ends in the AFC after a promising 2013. Because of his stellar play, he was expected to be the feature tight end in the Colts’ “No Coast” offense in 2013. However, after snagging one 20-yard catch for a touchdown against Oakland, he was forced to the sideline for the rest of 2013.

Now that he’s healthy, Allen rejoins a Colts team that is absolutely stacked on offense. While his talent was greatly missed and will be welcomed back with open arms, he’ll have to contend with a healthy Reggie Wayne along with T.Y. Hilton and new offensive weapon, Hakeem Nicks. He also has competition in his own position after Coby Fleener filled in ably for a hobbled Allen in 2013.

While Allen may not be your typical athletic, ex-basketball player, Tony Gonzalez or Jimmy Graham type of tight end, he plays fast. Possibly Allen’s best asset is his ability to block on either side of the line (which led to Vick Ballard’s successful 2012). Dwayne Allen was ranked second overall on ProFootballFocus.com’s rankings of tight ends in 2012, trailing only Rob Gronkowski. He didn’t post the gaudy statistical numbers of tight ends around him in the receiving game, but he was ranked the top run-blocking tight end in the league of all tight ends who played at least 50 percent of his team’s offensive snaps.

Allen’s balanced game could be compared to Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller; a solid pass catcher who can man-handle defenders on the line. This season, Allen will likely see many snaps in a two-tight-end formation due to Fleener’s outbreak in 2013. His presence, whether running or passing the football, makes the offense around him better. Andrew Luck has shown that he loves finding the open tight end between the hashes, and bringing back his top tight end is sure to pay dividends in the mid-range passing game.

Allen’s return along with the returns of Vick Ballard and Reggie Wayne and the acquisition of Hakeem Nicks make the Colts’ offense one of the scariest in the AFC.

And the greatest part is that Allen doesn’t need to catch the ball to demand the respect of his opponents.

Tags: Andrew Luck Coby Fleener Dwayne Allen Indianapolis Colts

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