By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
The Chargers missed Keenan Allen so much in 2016, they spent their first-round pick on a receiver.
Turns out, all they needed was some time.
A year after playing in just one game, Allen’s journey to redemption received its topper when he was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year on Saturday at the seventh-annual NFL Honors.
Allen rebounded from a six-catch, 63-yard 2016 season that ended with a torn ACL by catching 102 passes for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns in 2017. He made history within his return, becoming the first player in league history to record three straight games of at least 10 receptions, 100 receiving yards and one touchdown.
“Honestly, I think we have always wanted to push him the football,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said after Allen completed the feat with a 10-catch, 105-yard, one-touchdown game against the Cleveland Browns. “Now, will he able to keep this pace? It obviously has been a streak that has never been done … I am one of those that really just wants to stay in the moment and enjoy [this streak].”
He didn’t keep the pace, but he did log a nine-catch, 133-yard, one-touchdown game in a Week 17 win over the Oakland Raiders, a game Los Angeles needed to win to get into the playoffs. The Chargers didn’t get the help they needed to complete an unlikely run to the postseason, but Allen did more than his share.
Allen’s return to the Chargers provided a big-play, field-stretching element missing from the team in the previous season. It showed in the offense’s production, with Rivers seeing a 2.2 percentage point increase in his completion rate, lopping 11 interceptions off his total and taking half as many sacks as the year prior. He also posted his best passer rating since the 2013 season.
Allen’s contributions landed him back in the consciousness of the league. The bounce-back campaign definitely boosted his confidence.
“I do know, I’m probably the best,” Allen said when appearing on Fox Sports 1’s Undisputed. “I am the best in the league. No question. I can do what those guys do. What they’re doing, I’m doing it. No question about it.”
A year after spending the season on the sideline, watching his quarterback throw the most interceptions of his career as the Chargers limped to a 5-11 record, Allen is back at the center of the franchise’s future. That’s the brightest ray of sunshine Bolts fans will find in Southern California.