New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Safety Antonio Allen

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets seventh round draft pick, safety Antonio Allen

Chris Gross will be in the film room for Turn On The Jets breaking down all eight of the New York Jets draft selections. Today we look at 7th round pick, safety Antonio Allen. (At the bottom of the article, I offer a brief commentary on White from the film I have watched). – JC

When watching game film of New York Jets seventh round selection Antonio Allen, one thing is obvious; he is very much a true Strong Safety. Having played the “Spur” position during his collegiate career at South Carolina, Allen was a rover type safety for the Gamecocks, a position that is almost a strong safety/outside linebacker hybrid. Very rarely was he ever lined up as a true safety, and often times he was placed right in the box alongside the linebackers. Allen’s experience here has allowed him to develop many qualities that should assist his play at the next level.

One thing that stands right out about the 2011-second team All-American is his willingness to tackle. Allen is certainly not afraid to make a big hit, and fills the gap just as good, if not better, than most linebackers do. He seems very comfortable in the box, and is excellent against the run, a vital need for a strong safety in the NFL. He is no stranger to physicality, as on some formations at South Carolina he would line up right on the line of scrimmage, even in a three point stance during some goal line situations. His ability to shed blocks is elite for his position, and he is very aggressive when taking on lead blockers and pulling lineman, one of the reasons he led his team’s defense with 88 tackles. Allen is a tough kid who plays a very physical brand of football.

While his play against the run is very good, his pass coverage skills will most likely be more important to his success in the NFL due to the style of football that is most prevalent around the league. The majority of teams are moving toward pass-oriented offenses, many of which are using two tight end sets, especially in the AFC East with New England leading the charge. Allen’s play in this area during his collegiate career was not necessarily elite, but impressive.

Early in the 2011 season, Allen seemed much more raw in his coverage skills than he did later on in the year. The primary flaw in his game was that he seemed unsure of what he wanted to do. He would repeatedly fail to engage the offensive player, whether it was a slot receiver or tight end, as he would hesitate and allow them to initiate the contact. He would then have to rely on his long frame (nearly 6’2”) and strength to compensate. Allen would frequently be indecisive at jamming players, waiting until the last possible second to do so, often causing him to lunge at his target. This would usually throw off his balance and leave him a step or two behind in coverage. Because of this, Allen had to rely on his excellent range and closing speed to make plays. Although he was successful at this at the college level (second on the team in interceptions with 3), receivers in the NFL will be faster, and he will have to be much more fundamentally sound in his technique to avoid falling behind in coverage.

As the year progressed, though, Allen seemed to become much more polished with his hand speed and coverage ability. Later in the season, he became confident in what he wanted to do, whether it was jam his player or run with them, making him very effective in this area. He is a tremendously strong player, and when he uses his hands violently on his jams, he has a great ability to throw off the route of the offensive player, including the tight ends that he was often times manned up on. This will be key to his success with the Jets, as New York is desperate for players who cannot only cover the tight end, but also players who can disrupt what they want to do. Allen will benefit greatly from the Jets’ defensive coaching staff, especially with their planned intent to emphasize schemes and technique on how to defend tight ends during the offseason.

One of the brightest spots in Allen’s game is his blitzing ability. He is excellent at timing his blitzes, making him a serious threat to rush the passer. Sometimes, he comes in a bit recklessly, causing him to miss some tackles and run by plays, but for the majority, he is fantastic in this area and excels more often than not.

Allen’s role with the Jets will likely be limited this season if LaRon Landry can stay healthy. However, his aggressiveness and superior blitzing ability should get him into some packages that will allow Rex Ryan to send him after the quarterback or disguise various blitzes and coverages. For his rookie season, I’d expect New York to use him much like it used James Ihedigbo a few years ago, primarily as a blitzer, with a heavy role on special teams. Allen will provide good insurance in the event that Landry does get hurt, and should benefit greatly learning underneath the former first round selection out of LSU. Allen certainly has the potential to develop into a very important piece of New York’s secondary in the coming years. How he progresses in his coverage ability will be the key to his success.

Editor’s Notes – Allen is built to be the edge blitzer that Rex Ryan loves using his defensive backs for. The James Ihedigbo comparison makes sense but I think Allen has more potential in pass coverage. By that I mean, he can be utilized to jam tight ends off the line and help in short to intermediate coverage. Even if the Jets add another veteran to the safety position, Allen should stick on the roster because he fits in perfectly as a backup to LaRon Landry. Unless Landry gets banged up this season, I would only expect to see Allen in a handful of select packages on defense and on special teams where he has the physical skills to be an immediate asset.

The Jets got great value with Allen in the 7th round and he could very well be their long term strong safety if he reaches his potential and is utilized properly.