Today’s subject is Antonio Allen and, after the jump, you’ll see a couple of clips that illustrate some of the things he is good at, as well as some places where he has room for improvement.
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We start with a nice play against the run, something that Allen was expected to do well having been employed in a hybrid LB/Safety role at South Carolina. Obviously the closing speed is impressive, but notice how he makes the read first and then negotiates traffic to get to the ball carrier. It should not be ignored that Quinton Coples (#98) blew this play up with penetration, but Allen mopped up expertly.
This is where he was expected to struggle – in coverage. This play came after the Pats had already picked on Allen twice in zone coverage and Tom Brady’s third consecutive completion went for 20 yards to get New England into field goal range and rescue a possible three-point loss (ironically brought about by Allen’s fumble recovery to set up the go-ahead field goal). Allen is spying Danny Woodhead, who makes a hard plant with his right foot to get Allen off balance. Well designed and well-scouted by the Patriots there.
One area where Allen looks like he could be a good contributor is as a pass rusher. This was his first NFL sack and came as he lined up as a slot corner and showed good pursuit off the edge to bring down Andrew Luck. There was another play against the Jaguars where his pressure off the edge flushed the QB, who was then sacked by David Harris. He also had a couple of pressures in preseason.
Finally, here’s an example of some excellent free safety play. On third down, Allen reads the play well and closes to make the open field tackle to force a punt. A lot of people don’t think Allen can play this role, although if he earns the starting job, it’s quite possible that he’d be the strong safety and Dawan Landry would be the free safety the majority of the time. That’s the role Yeremiah Bell handled last season.
Regular BGA readers will have heard me talk about the distinction between free safety and strong safety before. People tend to associate the free safety with coverage, but it’s actually the strong safety – the guy closer to the line of scrimmage – who is more likely to get a man-to-man coverage assignment, while the deep safety will be in coverage support. To some extent, it doesn’t matter anyway because the safeties are more or less interchangeable in Rex Ryan’s scheme and (as the last gif shows) sometimes neither of the safeties will be in the box. I’m sure the Jets will employ whoever starts in a way that makes use of their strengths.
I thought Allen would be an interesting study for this week and his battle with Josh Bush for the starting role will be interesting to say the least. My assessment of Allen is that his range is better than advertised. He can definitely contribute in run support, but his coverage skills clearly need work. The Jets started to trust him in coverage towards the end of last season, which is a good sign. However, reports of getting chewed out by the coaches at mini-camp and getting demoted due to blown coverages suggest he still has work to do.
In the end, it could transpire that neither Bush nor Allen does enough to secure the starting role and the Jets will trade for or put a waiver claim in for a veteran instead. However, Allen shows some tantalizing glimpses of being a useful player and there’s been plenty of positive buzz about Bush too, so we should enjoy seeing them square off in a few weeks’ time.
Next weekend will be the last BGA before camp and I’m planning to take a look at Garrett McIntyre. I appreciate your other suggestions, but a lot of the players you asked me to look at already have comprehensive highlight reels or gif analysis already available online, so it would be difficult to produce anything unique. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve listed a few links to some of these below: