If training camp were the real thing, Keenan Allen would be having a heck of a season.
The third-year wide receiver has looked sharp through training camp, continuing to impress with acrobatic moves and clutch hands to grab the ball with the slimmest of separation.
He’s hoping it’s a sign of things to come.
Allen had a strong rookie season in 2014, with 1,046 yards, 71 catches and eight touchdowns to set franchise rookie records and help the team reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
His sophomore season was a different story, though, finishing with 783 yards and four touchdowns.
“I think I tried to just do too much last year, so I’m trying to just get back to my game,” Allen said. “I think I was just doing too much. This year I’m just going to get back to the basics.”
Poised to have a “comeback” season of sorts, Allen points to his growth and comfort level with quarterback Philip Rivers as a strength.
“Antonio [Gates] tells me all the time that he kinda knows when [Rivers] is coming to him, and I’m kind of feeling that too,” Allen said recently. “You kinda look at the coverage and you know what Phil likes to throw, and the play call that we have and the coverage they’re giving us. Just knowing that helps a lot.”
Thursday, the day before camp broke, Rivers gave his target some high praise.
“He's had his best camp,” River said of Allen. “It’s not even close, how consistent he's been. He came to get better every single day."
It’s also helped to go up against defensive backs like Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers.
“It’s great,” Allen said. “It’s hard to get a lot of separation from those guys, so being able to make tough catches and be physical, use your hands… Jason [Verrett] is one of the fastest guys in the league, I would say, so getting separation from him is big.”
Allen has shown more maturity, more growth throughout camp. He became a first-time father over the offseason and visits with his new daughter after almost every practice. His focus during training camp has been sharper, his routes crisper and his confidence high.
Now, it's just a matter of taking those training camp reps into the regular season.
“I’m excited,” Allen said. “I’m ready.”