Keenan Allen looks ready for 2016 season
Keenan Allen draws cornerback Jason Verrett in coverage every practice.
What that does to prepare Allen becomes apparent whenever he, well, draws someone else.
While the Chargers wide receiver does claim some success against his teammate, that outcome seemed in larger supply the past two days. Allen had a productive pair of joint practices against the Cardinals. He is scheduled to see them again Friday in a 6 p.m. exhibition game at Qualcomm Stadium.
It all started Tuesday.
In the first 11-on-11 period at Qualcomm, he went over the top of rookie cornerback Brandon Williams for a deep grab. He followed shortly thereafter with a catch in the intermediate level, separating without trouble while breaking inside for a 25-plus yard gain.
The roll continued some Wednesday.
Allen drew his share of Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson, beginning in one-on-one drills. In one rep, Allen located and adjusted by flipping his shoulders inside, jumping and then high-pointing a ball Philip Rivers placed on his back-shoulder. As coverage goes in the red zone, Peterson couldn’t have been much tighter.
Allen respectfully patted Peterson’s helmet afterward.
It was a competitive start to the day.
It was a testament to where Allen is.
Coaches use joint practices as an evaluation tool to see where players stand. There probably wasn’t any doubt with Allen entering Tuesday, but in any case, there certainly isn’t now. He looks about as ready for the regular season as a wide receiver can be at this preseason stage.
His form from the first half of the 2015 season – he caught 67 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns before a Week 8 kidney lacerated ended his year — is back. And it has been for some time.
Daily matchups with Verrett, who attended the Pro Bowl last season, only help.
“Jason is one of the best in the league,” Allen said. “Pat P., obviously, is another great talent; he has great technique. They do a good job with staying in their fundamentals and staying patient. It helps me because I get to see it and play against it, and then, I get to use it in the regular season.”
“It’s great,” coach Mike McCoy said of the Verrett-Allen matchup. “Anytime you get two great competitors, regardless of the position, they go at it. There’s a certain way they practice every day. They compete. They make each other better. They both make our team better, no matter who is covering Keenan or who Jason’s on. … And when you’ve got a quarterback like Philip who is going to put it right on you, he’s going to make even a tight coverage look like you weren’t covered.”
Just ask Peterson.
• Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald did not practice Wednesday, receiving what appeared to be a veteran rest day.
• Arizona coach Bruce Arians was released from a San Diego hospital Tuesday morning. He was hospitalized overnight for what was determined be diverticulitis, a colon-related issue. He missed Tuesday’s practice but was able to attend the start of Wednesday’s session at Chargers Park. He exited midway through, presumably to rest.
• McCoy and Arians for days assured that, unlike many joint practices seen elsewhere in the NFL, there would be no fighting at theirs. They were right. The sidelines never cleared. Tempers never flared — at least, too visibly. “I’d be lying to you if I said some fights didn’t almost happen,” right tackle Joe Barksdale said. “But at the end of the day, cats were professional. We knew what we were out here to do: We were out here to get better.”