COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP)As the longest-tenured player on the Los Angeles Chargers’ roster, Keenan Allen knows opportunities to get into the playoffs can be fleeting.
”It’s my 10th year and third time going. That should let you know everything. There ain’t promises, so you gotta go for it all when you get the chance,” Allen said Tuesday as the Chargers began preparations for Saturday night’s AFC wild-card round game at Jacksonville.
Allen’s season has mirrored the 10-7 Chargers’ path to their first postseason appearance since 2018. He had an early bout with injuries before returning in the second half of the season as the team prepared for a late run.
Allen missed seven games with to a nagging left hamstring injury he suffered during the Sept. 11 opener against Las Vegas. In the eight games since his return, Allen had 60 catches and averaged 11.3 yards per reception.
Over the last six weeks, Allen has been at his best. He led the NFL with 50 catches during that span, including 16 on third down. Allen also had two games with at least 11 receptions. The seven games he missed, though, meant this was the first time since 2016 that Allen did not have at least 95 catches.
Allen also had two 100-yard receiving efforts in the past three games, including eight catches for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last Sunday’s loss at Denver.
”It is definitely rewarding. The offseason pays off. Everything pays off once you get there. I absolutely feel like I’m in a good grove,” said Allen, who has 14 catches for 275 yards and three touchdowns in four postseason games.
While Allen is healthy, fellow receiver Mike Williams remains day-to-day. Williams suffered a back injury late in the first half against the Broncos.
Coach Brandon Staley said Williams was getting treatment while the team had a walkthrough on Tuesday.
”We expect him to practice at some point this week. In what capacity? That’s to be determined,” Staley said.
Having Allen and Williams on the field makes a huge difference in the Chargers’ offense because defenses are less likely to double-team either player. Allen didn’t play in the Chargers’ 38-10 loss to the Jaguars on Sept. 25, while Williams had LA’s only touchdown.
”I think we know how that picture looks. But if he isn’t, it’s going to be tougher,” Allen said. ”You’ve got to count on the other guys to make plays like Mike would.”
In part because both Allen and Williams missed games, the Chargers became the first team in NFL history to have six players top 500 receiving yards and three touchdown catches in the same season. Joshua Palmer would likely start Saturday if Williams was sidelined.
Long known as one of the best possession receivers in the league, Allen has had success against the Jaguars. In five regular-season meetings, he is averaging 14.3 yards per catch and had two games with 10 receptions and more than 100 yards.
The Chargers will be facing a Jacksonville defense that was ranked fifth-worst against the pass, allowing 238.5 yards per game.
Allen knows this game will be different because the stakes are higher.
”The intensity, pace, everything will be faster. And plays will mean a lot more,” he said.
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