Last year Antonio Allen seemed to be improving. Rex Ryan raved about his pro-bowl potential and many expected Allen to continue to improve his game throughout the 2014 off-season. Unfortunately for Allen and the Jets, he was drafted in as a corner on little notice and asked to play one of the most demanding positions in football without any experience and very little help. He has been consistently beaten this season and he's given up a number of touchdowns prompting the Jets to move him back to his safety spot, hopefully for good.
"It'll definitely be comfortable taking some of the load off me,'' he said after Thursday's practice. "But I did whatever I could do at corner and I did it to the best of my ability. And I'm going to do the same at safety when I move back.''
Allen was benched by Ryan last week in favor of Josh Thompson who's slated to start this weekend opposite Marcus Williams. The Jets are of course just trying to find a solution at a position they have struggled with all season. John Idzik thought it was a good idea to come into the season with two injury prone corners. Dimitri Patterson didn't even make it to week 1 and Dee Milliner made it to week 6 before being placed on IR. Dexter McDougle was done before he got started and he'll be starting as a redshirt rookie next season. I can't emphasize enough how poor this "Plan A" was and subsequently how poor plans B and C were too.
"If you have it, you have to take advantage of it,'' Thurman said. "What we're trying to do is put our pieces in place to do jobs that we need done. When you look at this young man, he is a talented kid, so we are trying to utilize him the best way to fit our defense, just like an offense would do to try to enhance their offensive capabilities.''
While I appreciate the desperate nature of Thurman and Ryan when given this final roster, I'm not quite sure how having a box safety, who's at his best covering tight ends and attacking the line is having it and taking advantage of it. If anything, that's an example of having a square peg and trying to push it through a round hole. I don't blame Allen, he's not a corner, his game is not hat of a corners and he was thrust into the spotlight at a position that gets you exposed on a regular basis. He has been terrible, there is no other way to put it, but expecting him to be anything else was always a long shot.
"Well, he has tried everything that we have asked him to do,'' he said of Allen, a seventh-round pick in 2012. "It was a tough move in the first place, one that we were looking at to try and see if he could do it. We have moved him back to safety and we'll see how he does.''
Who is to blame for this? It surely has to be John Idzik, the roster construction at cornerback was absolutely abysmal. To really hammer home that point, we need to remember the type of defense Rex Ryan likes to play. Although we don't exclusively run from a 3-4 formation, that is the preferred system at the moment. Corners in a 3-4 man-to-man system are extremely important. Ryan loves lining corners up 3-5 yards off the line in man coverage to jam receivers off the line. When you have good corners, that's absolutely fine, that's how Ryan runs his defense and why corners are so important. However the Jets don't have corners who can turn and run with receivers, they have corners who need to give receivers 8-10 yards of cushion. Obviously this means easy completions and the bend but don't break philosophy falls flat when you have one of the worst red-zone defenses in the league.
As a result the Jets have played more zone coverage than ever before, a system that is not Ryan's preferred choice.
Allen did what he could in a bad situation, and failed. Rex and Thurman failed trying to move him to corner, but most of all John Idzik failed for making them attempt to convert a box safety to a corner.
"That's how the game goes,'' Allen said. "People are forced to be in positions they're not used to. You could complain about it or you could just be quiet and go to work as usual. And that's what I came and did
"Like I said, I did my best,'' he added. "I probably gave up a touchdown every game, but hey. That was a sacrifice I was willing to give up. That's what it is.''
I'm happy the experiment is over, but I'm not happy we had to experiment in the first place.