MicroPats Week 4 vs. Miami Dolphins: Dwayne Allen, the $3.38 Million Man
Through the first three weeks of the season, an unhealthy (but substantial) contingent of the New England Patriots fan base was worried about pretty much everything going wrong, with the impression that there was no way it could be fixed. The run defense? Atrocious. Tom Brady? Looks wrong. The run game? NEVER RUN THE BALL WHEN TOM BRADY IS THE QUARTERBACK! These sentiments were taking hold despite the looooooong recent track record of the Patriots using September as a sort of extended preseason. Even though history told everyone to “relax,” and that everything would be fine, the panic was palpable around Gillette Stadium for the Patriots Week 4 game against the Dolphins. Not only that, but much of the ire (BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS GOING WRONG SO WE MUST FIND A SCAPEGOAT) was directed at Josh McDaniels, the run game, and Dwayne Allen. Dwayne Allen, for those of you not in the know, is the Patriots blocking tight end and a player who, according to some, has been a disappointment since he joined the Patriots. Regardless of the fact the Patriots run game has been terrific since he joined the club, he has been labeled a “disappointment” because, apparently, touchdowns through the air count more than touchdowns on the ground or something like that. Many fans have complained endlessly about Dwayne Allen and his play, but Allen responded to those complaints on Sunday by doing what he does best; destroying everything in his way.
Comparatively speaking, Dwayne Allen did not do anything out of the ordinary in the Patriots thumping of the Miami Dolphins. He simply did was he is always asked to do, and what he accomplishes roughly 95% of the time; block. Granted, Allen (as referenced in the MicroPats video for this week) had some highlight reel blocks, but he has been one of the most consistent players on the Patriots roster since joining the team. For some reason, when Dwayne Allen was first brought on, people expected him to make more of an impact in the passing game. This is partly a residual effect of the Patriots having great complimentary tight ends with Rob Gronkowski; without prior tight ends like Bennett and You Know Who, the expectation for Allen would be lower. Everyone saw, “Patriots acquire big target tight end” and immediately thought he would be a key cog in the passing game. Instead, the Patriots management saw “big tight end” and have essentially used him as a versatile tackle who happens to have really good hands and can run routes.
There is a massive (and hard to comprehend) disconnect for most fans between the Patriots dynamic passing game and their tried-and-true run game. Brady is at his best when he is going to play-action. His favorite target in play-action is Gronkowski. The reason the play-action is so effective, and Gronkowski is so effective in the play-action, is that the fake handoff sucks the linebackers down, or if nothing else, holds them in place. Without a productive run game, there is no play-action. Try to tell some fans that Dwayne Allen has a $3.38 million cap hit, and it is totally worth it, they will look at you as if you are a crazy person.
People and fans of their ilk have a massive misunderstanding that all of these things are connected. If you want the greatest quarterback of all time to continue to dominate with the best tight end of all time, you are going to need guys like Allen to help out in the run game and make the run game effective (this is also why Gronkowski is amazing; if he did not catch a single ball, he would be one of the best tight ends in football for his blocking ability).
The next time you hear some fan (or awful talking head) spouting off about the Patriots running it too much in the first half. Remind them that the passing game is inextricably linked to the run game. Remind them that the Patriots are at their best in play-action, and nobody respects the play-action from a team that cannot run the ball. Remind them that every time they gush (rightfully so) about the awesomeness that is the Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski connection, it is players like Dwayne Allen who make it so successful. And remind them that for a $3.38 million cap hit, Dwayne Allen is absolutely worth it.