Ricardo Allen was an impact player from the moment he stepped on the field at Purdue. Allen is the third cornerback drafted by the Falcons over the past two seasons, and it was a little surprising (to me, anyway) that the team went for Allen with Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford locked in, Robert McClain re-signed to a one-year deal, and Javier Arenas and Josh Wilson acquired by the team in the offseason. What can fans expect from Allen on the field?
When you read scouting reports on Allen, you might be reminded of Asante Samuel. The Falcons will definitely miss Samuel's attitude on the field in 2014 and beyond, but bringing in Allen certainly is a step toward filling that void. Dane Brugler describes his on-field demeanor as "confident" and "feisty," noting that Allen loves to talk trash and works to get in the heads of receivers he goes up against.
But it's not just Allen's on-field demeanor that's appealing. He's a playmaker, having returned four of 13 career interceptions for touchdowns. Six of his interceptions came in his senior season, and he added 53 tackles, three pass deflections, one sack and one forced fumble to his stat line last season. He doesn't even have great speed, making those pick-sixes all the more impressive.
Allen has good instincts in coverage, good closing speed and a good feel for the position.He's solid in run support, embracing contact and hitting hard. His ball skills are excellent. He's durable, having never missed a game at Purdue during his college career. Allen is extremely competitive and hates to lose. He's a strong leader with excellent character.
The most glaring weakness for Allen is his size. At 5'9" and 187 pounds and with a frame that won't support much more weight, size and strength are concerns for Allen, particularly against bigger, stronger receivers, and size is an issue that can't be corrected through coaching.
His other weaknesses can, at least theoretically, be improved through coaching. Allen didn't play a lot of press coverage in college and when he's playing off the ball he has a tendency to play too far off, taking himself out of the play. There are times that he approaches a play too aggressively and whiffs on the receiver, kind of like his new teammate Robert Alford. He has just average speed and athleticism and has a tendency to bite on quarterback fakes and lose track of the ball when he's not looking directly at the line of scrimmage.
The More You Know
Allen experienced a defining moment as a child when a pan he left on a hot stove erupted in flames. His brother, Adrian, threw water on it to extinguish the fire, not knowing that was the worst thing one could do with a grease fire. He was badly burned. The weight of the accident has been heavy for Allen, and the incident drove him to pursue a career in football to help his family.
The Falcons got Allen right around where he was projected to be drafted, and his ball skills and competitive nature make him an excellent prospect despite the fact that his size is not optimal and not likely to change in terms of weight and functional strength. With the Falcons' current roster, they have the flexibility to let Allen develop on special teams to get up to NFL speed. In terms of intangibles, it doesn't get much better than this kid.
What do you think about the Falcons' newest cornerback?