FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Martellus Bennett's contributions to the New England Patriots' 2017 season won't jump off the stat sheet -- 24 snaps played in two games, six receptions and 53 yards -- but there is a trickle-down effect from his stint, which ended Tuesday with him placed on injured reserve, that could benefit the team. From the moment Bennett was claimed on waivers Nov. 9, it seemed to bring out the best in fellow tight end Dwayne Allen.
At that point, Allen -- the team's No. 2 tight end after Rob Gronkowski -- had not registered a single reception. But he has played his best football in the past three games, and the Patriots will be relying on more of that coming down the homestretch.
The likable Allen caught his first pass from quarterback Tom Brady -- an 11-yard touchdown -- in Bennett's first game back in New England. The next week, he recovered a Rex Burkhead fumble on the opening drive of a win over the Raiders and added two catches for 24 yards. Finally, in Sunday's win over Miami, his powerful blocking seemed to rise to a higher level and contributed to an impressive day in which the Patriots ran for 196 yards as a team (he also had a 2-yard catch on a designed screen that had potential for big yardage if blocked a bit better).
That the Patriots had a designed play for the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Allen is one example of the strides he has made since admitting to being disappointed with part of his play in the early part of the season. Allen has talked about the importance of nonverbal communication and being on the same page as Brady, and things have improved in that area.
Allen played 38 snaps in Sunday's win (Bennett was inactive), his third-highest total of the season after 50 against the Buccaneers with Gronkowski injured and 46 against the Saints in Week 2. Overall, he's averaging 25.2 offensive snaps per game.
Without Bennett in the fold to cut into that playing time, Allen could be seeing the field even more in the coming weeks.