Could Antonio Allen Solve the Cornerback Problem?
Aug 4, 2014; Cortland, NY, USA; New York Jets free safetyAntonio Allen
(39) walks to the locker room following training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
So, the Jets begin to fix the problem at cornerback. It remains to be seen when, or if, anyone is going to be signed by John Idzik and company. For the time being, Rex Ryan has to make do with the players they have.
One interesting solution began to form yesterday, and the Jets used Antonio Allen on the outside at cornerback. Rex was asked if Allen has any experience on the outside:
He did it because he was a SAM linebacker (in college). Remember? But, that was it (joking). But, not outside. But no, that is what we noticed about him. When he was in college, the kid made a zillion plays. I think I saw the Auburn game, he made 20 tackles, a couple sacks, (and) an interception. I remember watching and they had some pretty good players there. That might’ve been the second best team in South Carolina on defense (joking). No, but I think they were number one in the country that year on defense and when you looked at tape, he might’ve been the best player on the field. He just made plays. He (was) like a 202-pound outside linebacker, but he just made plays all over the place. I remember coming back and I’m watching this thing and they’ve got some good football players there. You had (Melvin) Ingram there. You had the corner that’s with Buffalo, (Stephon Gilmore), the first-round pick. I mean they were loaded. (Jadeveon) Clowney was there as a freshman and I just said, ‘Hey, but there’s a kid there that makes plays everywhere and that’s Antonio Allen.’ Then we go to his pro day and he’s working with DBs, Dennis Thurman and I. It’s the worst pro day ever because he had never done it before. He had never done it before and we’re like, “We’re going to steal this guy. We’re going to get a great football player in the later rounds,” and we did. Now he’s just progressed from that point on. But, the one thing you can’t take away from him is he’s coachable and he’s a football player. He’s got great instincts and all that, so we’re like, “Let’s just put him out there some.”
Here are some thoughts from Rex about how Allen’s coverage skills have developed:
We felt comfortable last year. You talk about some tough downs, he covered (Rob) Gronkowski all game long, and they tried 20 balls against him, 20 throws. He covered Jimmy Graham, and I know Jimmy caught a touchdown pass, by the way it wasn’t against Double A (Allen), because he got hurt in that game. I think after he knocked out the running back (Darren Sproles) there, he later got hurt. He’s just a football player, he plays with great technique, he’s got great length. So we just figured we’d give it a shot. Today it was funny, because I can show you our script. This is what it looked like. I’m sitting back in there, and I’m like “lets come up with a thing, we’re going to call it Joker. These are the plays, that was sub and that was the thing originally planned for him, I can call all these plays. But the more you put him out there, the more you realize, just run anything we got, and he’ll figure it out. It’s easier because the young man has come a million miles. Tim McDonald has done a tremendous job coaching him. Dennis Thurman, obviously, two great coaches. He got better and better, he got a mentor in (Dawan) Landry, and now he has learned the defense. Not just like this one assignment, he knows the defense, so you can plug him in at different spots. You move him out at corner, he already knows the communication from the safeties and all that, and what it means. So he was able to play naturally, and I think that’s why you see us, we’ve talked about it, we have good football players, and that’s what you need. It doesn’t matter. My dad played the ‘85 Bears, probably the greatest defense in the history of this sport, (they) had no college corners on it, and they were all college safeties, and they had one college wide out from Yale, in Gary Fencik, playing safety. So both the corners, Leslie Frasier, was a safety at Alcorn State. Then you had Mike Richardson (who) was the safety at Arizona State on those Bears teams. So if you play with good enough technique and you can get to the passer with your front, then you’re fine.
If anyone is going to get the most out of this defense, Rex will. Antonio Allen might very well be the guy, only time will tell.