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Ricardo Allen is ready to be the "next man up"

Ricardo Allen, recently added to the active roster from the practice squad, has been preparing all season to be the "next man up" if his number is called.

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Ricardo Allen was selected by the Falcons in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Purdue University, where he holds the program record for interceptions returned for touchdowns with four. Allen was heavily featured on Hard Knocks, along with his fiancée, Grace, and fans followed his story, including a zip lining trip, right up until the moment when he was cut from the team. Allen was added to the practice squad, and with his work ethic and dedication, it's not particularly surprising that Allen was added to the active roster following the announcement that cornerback Robert Alford was placed on injured reserve.

I asked Allen about the transition to the active roster from the practice squad, whether it was difficult. "Not really," Allen said. "All year, the GM and the coaches have always told me, just prepare like you're on the 53, because in this league, it's the next man up."

We hear about that "next man up" mentality a lot, and the Falcons have certainly proven the importance of that perspective over the past couple of seasons. Allen emphasized that everyone on the team has to be prepared to go out there and do their part. "Whenever somebody goes down, you've just got to be ready," Allen said. "You've got to try not to be a drop off. You've got to go out there and help the team as much as possible."

Allen has almost a full NFL season under his belt, and he is pleased about his development to this point. "I'm feeling much better," Allen said. "I'm much smarter. I'm much faster. I feel stronger. Just being around, you grow over time, and the more you see, the better you do."

Going up against some of the best offensive players in the league has put Allen's development on a fast track. "I'm going against Roddy [White], Julio [Jones] and Harry [Douglas] and them every day - Matt Ryan - and that has bumped my game up," Allen said.

The speed of the NFL game differs greatly from college, and Allen says that veterans have helped him learn how to adjust. "The game has slowed down a ton for me. It's just - like I said, I see it better," Allen said. "I've just learned a lot of stuff from Josh Wilson, Dwight [Lowery], Willy Mo. They've taught me how to slow things down and how to read things much faster, and the game has slowed down a lot."

Cornerback Josh Wilson is dealing with a hamstring injury, and while Allen was inactive for his first game on the active roster last Sunday against New Orleans, it's possible he'll be pressed into action against the Panthers on Sunday. If they call his number, he'll be prepared.