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Falcons Starting To Believe In Unheralded Ricardo Allen At Free Safety


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Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH,Ga. -- Ricardo Allen probably didn't hear it, but the Atlanta Falcons' free safety got a standing ovation from one section of the crowd following a minicamp interception.

Well, the cheering actually came from one boisterous spectator in particular -- his wife, Grace. But Allen deserved a rousing applause for the way he performed in camp and throughout the entire offseason. In fact, the second-year player from Purdue, cut last year after training camp then re-signed to the practice squad, is in position to secure an improbable starting role after not playing a single snap as a rookie.

"That's not my thing," Allen said when asked if he should be the starter. "I just go out and play every day. That's not my decision to make. At the end of the day, it's the coach's decision. So I'm just going to come out and compete against myself every day and better myself. And whenever I get my named called or my number called, I'll be ready."

The 5-foot-9-inch, 187-pound Allen was by far the most pleasant surprise of the offseason. He came to the Falcons as a fifth-round draft pick expected to compete for maybe the third cornerback spot. The previous coaching staff thought Allen was a highly intelligent player from the outset. What caused hesitation was Allen's 4.6 speed and lack of ideal size.

Allen eventually was elevated to the 53-man roster by season's end yet he never reached the field. His only claim to fame was a segment on HBO's "Hard Knocks" when he suffered uncomfortable swelling to his private area and suddenly developed an unfortunate nickname.

Allen wasn't too discouraged about his rookie campaign despite the setbacks.

"You've just got to take it for what it is," Allen said. "It's a blessing in disguise. You know, God has a plan for you. Yeah, it was a downfall for us. We looked at it as a setback. But you know, everybody who is at the top right now was once at the bottom. So you've just to keep going."

The Falcons experimented with cross-training Allen at safety last season, although nothing materialized. He constantly stayed late after practice working to refine his technique.

Meanwhile, the free safety situation played out much differently than expected. First, the Falcons didn't re-sign Dwight Lowery. Once Dan Quinn was named head coach, most figured the Falcons would pursue a lanky, speedy safety in free agency. They brought in veteran Darian Stewart for a visit, but Stewart committed to the Denver Broncos while in Atlanta. Then a high-priced target, Ron Parker, re-signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. And when D.J. Swearinger was released by the Houston Texans, the Falcons put in a claim but lost out to Tampa Bay, with the Buccaneers first in the claiming order.

Second-year player Dezmen Southward, who has the speed and size but not the ball skills, was moved from free safety to cornerback, leaving veteran Charles Godfrey as the No. 1 option before organized team activities. Quinn said Godfrey, Allen and strong safety Kemal Ishmael would compete for the spot, but Godfrey watched Allen surpass him on the depth chart. Ishmael filled in for a recovering William Moore (shoulder) at strong safety throughout the offseason.

Allen called his move to safety much easier than playing cornerback.

"I've always been a smart player," he said. "So it's just about learning the details and stuff like that and actually noticing what's about to happen to you."

Moore is impressed with Allen's emergence.

"Ricardo, No. 1, he reminds me of Ishmael last season ... how he showed up to camp, he showed up with something on his mind to get better and that's exactly what he did," Moore said. "No. 1, he's a heck of an athlete. No. 2, he's got his playbook, it seems, down pat. He spends a lot of time in the film room. Ricardo has showed up."

If Allen continues his torrid pace when the Falcons reconvene for training camp starting July, he should find himself next to Moore for the Monday Night Football opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"They brought me in for a reason last year," Allen said. "I've just got to take it and go with it -- be more confident and believe in myself."

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"Ricardo, No. 1, he reminds me of Ishmael last season ... how he showed up to camp, he showed up with something on his mind to get better and that's exactly what he did," Moore said. "No. 1, he's a heck of an athlete. No. 2, he's got his playbook, it seems, down pat. He spends a lot of time in the film room. Ricardo has showed up."

I like this quote from Willie Moe

Edited by FentayeJones
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How many other gems did our old staff ignore?

I'll say this for them, they at least thought about playing him at safety. He may not have been ready last year. I won't be too critical of this one. And he still hasn't done it in pads but I love what I'm hearing
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I'm not saying that extra inch is going to be a huge crutch, It just seems like 5'10 is the cutoff. Here's to hoping that Allen can shock the world and change that.

Not trying to be a Scrooge, but if the Buccaneers don't pick up Swearinger and we claim him (or we sign Darian Stewart before the Broncos), then this whole thing is moot. I'm rooting for Allen as much as the next guy, but a lot of the early camp hype has to be attributed to the fact that his biggest competition is a vet minimum backup who's probably better suited for special teams and was cut in favor of Thomas DeCoud in Carolina.

I'm sure that Allen wasn't the logical player for the FS position by the new coaching staff at first.

Allen has really surprised them so far as well.

Let's wait and see how he does in training camp, but he is off to a hot start.

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I'm not saying that extra inch is going to be a huge crutch, It just seems like 5'10 is the cutoff. Here's to hoping that Allen can shock the world and change that.

Not trying to be a Scrooge, but if the Buccaneers don't pick up Swearinger and we claim him (or we sign Darian Stewart before the Broncos), then this whole thing is moot. I'm rooting for Allen as much as the next guy, but a lot of the early camp hype has to be attributed to the fact that his biggest competition is a vet minimum backup who's probably better suited for special teams and was cut in favor of Thomas DeCoud in Carolina.

Allen had already been moved to safety before those waiver claims were put in so the scenario of him potentially winning the job is still something to get excited about, and Godfrey wasn't cut for DeCoud, he was moved to CB.
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Allen also has a 37 inch vertical

That is higher that Tyrann Mathieu's 34 inch vert. Higher that Jarius Byrd's 35

Higher than Earl Thomas' 32 inch vert.

I like that.

Off topic, but reading those numbers show what athletic freaks we have in Hageman (35.5" vertical) and Beasley (41").
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DeCoud was moved to CB? Link?

The Panthers picked up DeCoud, and released Godfrey shortly after. DeCoud has never played one snap at corner.

Coming off his Achilles injury, Godfrey was moved to nickel back.

He was cut due to a combination of injury, poor fit at nickelback and a bloated contract.

Edited by FentayeJones
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Coming off his Achilles injury, Godfrey was moved to nickel back.

He was cut due to a combination of injury, poor fit at nickelback and a bloated contract.

Definitely possible, but I know when he was cut he was playing the nickel and he wasn’t very good at it-probably due to his injury.

If I’m not mistaken, the Panthers revamped their entire secondary during the season. If I remember correctly, the only guy to make it all the way through the season was Roman Harper.

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I'm not saying that extra inch is going to be a huge crutch, It just seems like 5'10 is the cutoff. Here's to hoping that Allen can shock the world and change that.

Not trying to be a Scrooge, but if the Buccaneers don't pick up Swearinger and we claim him (or we sign Darian Stewart before the Broncos), then this whole thing is moot. I'm rooting for Allen as much as the next guy, but a lot of the early camp hype has to be attributed to the fact that his biggest competition is a vet minimum backup who's probably better suited for special teams and was cut in favor of Thomas DeCoud in Carolina.

Swearinger is not suited for FS in 43 under. He can lay the wood, and you really need your FS to be a reliable tackler in this scheme, but he has nowhere near the range nor instincts required. We needed more competition with Godfrey looking like he had none, so it's not surprising we put in a claim

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I'll say this for them, they at least thought about playing him at safety. He may not have been ready last year. I won't be too critical of this one. And he still hasn't done it in pads but I love what I'm hearing

Where is this coming from? I guess I missed it.

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Not to knock Smitty, but it's nice to see everyone getting a fresh look this offseason. Hopefully many other players besides Ricardo float to the top of the competition. We might have had a winning team all along. We just didn't put them on the starting roster.

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Where is this coming from? I guess I missed it.

It says in the article.

"The Falcons experimented with cross-training Allen at safety last season, although nothing materialized. He constantly stayed late after practice working to refine his technique."

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