Keenan Allen's Insights on Justin Herbert Will Be Crucial for Caleb Williams

V. Carbonneau
June 11, 2024  (0:53)

Keenan Allen in action
Photo credit: ESPN

Keenan Allen has extensive experience in the NFL. The veteran wide receiver, now entering his 12th season, began his career catching passes from future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers and later became the primary target for Justin Herbert, who quickly emerged as a standout rookie in 2020.

Allen recognized Herbert's potential even before he took over as the Chargers' starting quarterback from Tyrod Taylor early in the 2020 season. Herbert's talent and leadership were evident, and Allen played a key role in nurturing the young quarterback and preparing him for stardom.
This season, the Bears expect Allen to take on a similar mentoring role with No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams.
"He's obviously a guy who has tremendous talent, but it's going to be a work in progress," Allen said of Williams during Bears' mandatory minicamp. "He just came out of college. The huddle call, having new terminology. For me, some of the plays are the same, but the terminology is different. You hear one word and you automatically think of last year's terminology, but you have to adapt it to this year. So it's like the same play, different word. He'll have to grow into it, and it takes a while."
Mastering the cadence is a top priority for Williams and the Bears. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner hasn't used a verbal cadence since high school, relying instead on a clap cadence during his college years at Oklahoma and USC.
Cadence issues are common for rookie quarterbacks, given the prevalence of the clap cadence in modern college football.
Allen observed Herbert navigate this challenge and eventually master it, emphasizing the importance of patience.
"Absolutely," Allen said when asked about the similarities between Herbert and Williams at this stage. "Just the huddle call in itself, being able to hear it, relay it to the guys, and understanding what you're saying. Then managing the cadence, coordinating motions, reading the defense, and making quick decisions. It's definitely hard, but everyone goes through it. It's a process you have to experience to understand."
Williams will master the cadence with time, and Allen and the Bears anticipate he will be more polished by the middle of training camp.
Allen's experience with Herbert and Rivers will be invaluable in guiding Williams through his rookie season. Allen has seen what made Rivers a future Hall of Famer and what propelled Herbert to the elite ranks of quarterbacks.
Both Rivers and Herbert shared a common trait that Williams also possesses in abundance: confidence.
"The best thing is confidence," Allen said when asked for advice he'd give Williams based on his time with Rivers and Herbert. "Both Philip and Justin had tremendous confidence. They believed in their arm, their talent, and their vision. You've got to be decisive. If you second-guess yourself, even for a moment, things can go wrong. Understand what you're seeing and make a play."
Williams has been adjusting to the speed of the Bears' defense during the offseason and testing his arm talent. Mistakes have been made, such as interceptions thrown during minicamp, but these are valuable learning moments.
The Bears want Williams to experiment with his abilities and understand the limits of what he can achieve in the NFL.
Despite occasional struggles, veteran Bears defenders have praised Williams for his touch and his rare ability to manipulate defenses with his eyes, which is impressive for a rookie at this stage.
For Williams, the support from Allen and other veterans, whether on good or bad practice days, has been crucial for his adjustment as the Bears' new franchise quarterback.
"Being the Bears QB is obviously good for me," Williams said. "Their support and encouragement have been huge for me.
"Their belief in me, sharing the vision we all have, and their understanding that I'm tough on myself has been big. Having these guys around, texting me, calling me, congratulating me when things go well, and encouraging me when they don't, has been incredibly helpful."
The Bears traded for Allen in March to provide Williams with an elite receiver whose skills complement those of D.J. Moore.
Allen's veteran expertise and route-running will be invaluable on the field. However, his experience mentoring a star rookie quarterback might be even more critical during Williams' rookie season.
For Allen, the onboarding process isn't just about developing on-field chemistry with Williams or helping him adjust to the NFL game. It's also about understanding the young quarterback's mentality to effectively motivate him.
"Just understanding each other's energy," Allen said about spending time with Williams off the field. "Like Kobe said, finding those ticks, knowing how to get into his head, what makes him competitive, and what makes him tick. Spending time together, finding each other's rhythm and energy is everything."
Allen and Williams plan to continue building their chemistry by practicing together off-campus during the Bears' summer break, ensuring they are ready to perform seamlessly when training camp begins in mid-July.
11 JUNE   |   33 ANSWERS
Keenan Allen's Insights on Justin Herbert Will Be Crucial for Caleb Williams

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