Having looked at each of the Jets’ draft picks in detail, we’ve now moved on to discuss each of their undrafted free agent signings. We continue today with a breakdown of Fresno State linebacker Jeff Allison.
The 22-year old is listed at 5’11” and 228 pounds and was a two-team first team all-MWC selection. He entered the draft early having been the conference’s defensive player of the year in his junior season. Allison racked up 246 tackles in the last two seasons.
Allison began playing football at the age of five, but hadn’t received any scholarship offers as he entered his senior year at high school. After an excellent season saw him named as an all-Metro selection in the Atlanta area, he found his way to Fresno State.
Allison played in every game as a true freshman, albeit only as a reserve. He saw rotational action on defense for the first half of the season but just played special teams down the stretch, ending up with 21 tackles.
In his sophomore year, Allison became a full-time starter and racked up a career-high 126 tackles, including 79 solo tackles which was good for seventh in the nation. He added two sacks, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
In his junior year, Allison racked up another 120 tackles, including 5.5 for loss for the second year in a row. He also had the first two interceptions of his career.
Allison, who was projected as a possible late round pick, was invited to the scouting combine. However, he did not test well, which hurt his stock.
The Jets signed Allison as an undrafted free agent after he went unselected in the draft.
Now let’s take a look at what Allison brings to the table, divided into categories.
As noted earlier, Allison tested poorly at the scouting combine. He ran a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash and his strength, explosiveness and agility numbers were all poor.
At his pro day, he was only able to shave one-hundreth of a second off his short shuttle time and could only improve his bench press from 12 reps to 14. He was able to improve his vertical by three inches to 34, but that’s still only about average for the position. However, he reportedly ran a much faster 40 - about 4.7 - at a private workout closer to the draft.
Allison is short but his arms are of average length and he has a stocky frame which gives him a decent wingspan. He also has big hands.
Allison is an off-ball linebacker who has seen action as the mike linebacker and on the outside in 4-3 defenses. He sometimes creeps up to the line of scrimmage or drops off to cover a linebacker in the slot but is mostly employed conventionally.
In college, Allison won several academic awards and his football IQ is also regarded as good because he does a lot of film study. He was often tasked with getting his teammates lined up correctly and communicating defensive changes on the field.
Allison cites his instincts as one of his best attributes, but scouting reports are less impressed, suggesting he can be susceptible to falling for misdirection or a beat late to react in coverage.
He looks good when coming downhill though and definitely shows some ability to diagnose and make a play. On this one, he immediately sniffs out the pulling guard and gets out in front of him and around to make the stop.
There are examples of him being caught out though. On this play he is tasked with covering the back out of the backfield but doesn’t anticipate the down block from the slot receiver and ends up getting pancaked.
Allison was constantly around the football over the last two years, showing a keen ability to shoot gaps and plug holes.
His athletic limitations seem to affect him in terms of his range in pursuit and ability make plays in the backfield and he can also be slowed up while trying to get through traffic. However, he’s effective when kept clean.
If he can read a play and avoid the lead block, then Allison can be at his most effective. He does well to stop the runner in his tracks after side-stepping a block at the second level on this play.
However, if the blocker gets his hands on him then Allison nearly always has to give up ground to get off the block. He invariably does fight to get off the block eventually, but by then he’s missed the opportunity to slow the runner down or stop him before he gets going.
With a few technical refinements, Allison could perhaps be taught to get off blocks more quickly. That would make a big difference to his effectiveness.
Allison was among the most productive tacklers in the nation and is always keen to jump on a pile and pad those numbers. However, when delivering the first blow himself, he has some impressive highlights, stopping ball carriers in their tracks or knocking them backwards.
In pursuit, he takes good angles and uses his wingspan to wrap up effectively and prevent ball carriers from getting any extra yardage at the end of the play.
He was, however, guilty of a lot of missed tackles, including 17 last season. These tended to come as a back was able to stay on his feet after he delivered a low blow. With more NFL players likely to have good balance and agility, he needs to sharpen up the consistency of his technique because while he delivers an effective shot when correctly squared up, many NFL runners are going to bounce off him if he tries to hit them hard on the move.
With that said, a lot of the tackles he missed were of the variety where he would slow up the ball carrier who then got stopped by someone else anyway. However, here’s one where the back slipped away from him for a first down and extra yardage.
He had two forced fumbles in his college career, both of which came in his sophomore season.
Allison is best suited to underneath zone coverage assignments as his athletic limitations could be exposed against an athletic back or a big tight end. Michael Roberts easily gets outside leverage and boxes him out for a touchdown on this play.
His overall coverage numbers were good. Most of the production came on short passes and no play went for 20 yards when he was targeted, although he did give up one touchdown in coverage each year.
When dropping to the middle, Allison can read and break on the ball to keep yards after the catch to a minimum or break up passes as he did here.
Allison’s two interceptions, both against UCLA, each came as a ball was tipped into the air and Allison aggressively got up and claimed it. In 2017, he didn’t have any interceptions, but recorded two fumble recoveries on similar plays where the ball was knocked away from a receiver just after the catch and Allison plucked it out of the air.
Allison only had 2.5 sacks in college and isn’t known for his pass rush abilities, but was pretty productive when rushing the passer over the past three years. He doesn’t show much in the way of pass rush moves, but will keep his head up and remain alert to where the quarterback is in the pocket.
He’s an effective blitzer, recording a sack here on a blitz where he found himself a clean path to the quarterback and brought him down before he could escape.
As already noted, Allison packs a punch when making a tackle and is not afraid to mix it up with blockers, although he can be outmuscled when trying to fight off a block. He’s not afraid to aggressively take out a lead blocker though.
Allison never played on the kick coverage units in college, which is perhaps surprising. However, he did see time on the kick rush unit and as a blocker on returns.
He had two special teams penalties in college - one for an illegal block and the other as he was offside on a field goal attempt. He also fielded two squib kicks on the kick return unit, returning them for eight and seven yards.
Allison played in every game during his three-year college career but was knocked out of a game in the first quarter with a leg injury last season. Fresno State won easily so he wasn’t required to reenter the game and was able to start the following week.
He also missed some time during the spring last preseason as he was rehabbing a shoulder injury.
Once again, the Jets have targeted a player with exceptional intangibles. Allison was regarded as a leader with an incredible work ethic, who shows up early, never gets into trouble and prepares hard.
Allison came from a rough area but had a strong family unit growing up. However, he’s had to deal with a lot of adversity and tragedy over the years. He lost two cousins, who he called his best friends, in a car accident and then his 16-year old brother tragically drowned. Also, his mother has been battling leukemia and suffering from lung diseases.
Allison has shown resilience, dedicating his performances over the years to his family and showing determination to maximize his chances for success.
On the field, he has only had a few penalties on defense. His only two defensive penalties last season were both for defensive holding.
Allison will compete for an off-ball role with the Jets. He’s undersized, but not athletic enough to convert to safety so it will be a challenge for him to handle the physicality around the line of scrimmage. His strength doesn’t lie in coverage so a sub-package role seems unlikely.
It’s interesting to read scouting reports on Allison because a lot of them contradict one another and his teammates and coaches have praised him for attributes which are viewed by some scouts as weaknesses. This can probably be best summarized by saying that he’s a mixed bag on film, with some positive signs but also mistakes and inconsistent play at times across the board.
Some experts felt Allison came out too early, perhaps believing he needed more development time. However, the flipside of this is that perhaps it means he still has some untapped potential. The Jets’ goal will be to uncover that.
His biggest competition for a role could be Anthony Wint, who arguably offers more potential as a special teams contributor. If Allison can’t prove he’s more worthy of keeping around than Wint, then he’s unlikely to earn a practice squad spot.