As we move forward with our list of the New York Jets’ top 25 players, we reach a very interesting name to watch this season. Strong safety Antonio Allen was a seventh round pick in 2012, and he used his first two seasons in the NFL to work his way up the depth chart and position himself to compete for a starting job this season. Allen is a major breakout candidate for the Jets heading into his third season, and they will be hoping he can prove that he is their strong safety of the future.
Allen made very little impact as a rookie, but he carved out a nice role for himself in the Jets’ defense last season, recording 63 tackles, one sack and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown. Allen was a starter for the early part of the season, but lost his job to Ed Reed down the stretch. However, Allen still played quite a bit in nickel and three safety packages. Allen’s biggest contribution to the Jets was his ability to cover tight ends man to man, a vital skill in today’s NFL. Rex Ryan’s defense is predicated on man to man coverage, and having a safety who can handle that responsibility against the tight end is a huge asset.
It appears that Allen could be in for an even bigger role in his third season, as he was working as the starting strong safety in OTAs, with Calvin Pryor at the free safety spot. Moving Allen ahead of Dawan Landry on the depth chart would cost the Jets’ some experience at the back end, but it would provide them with a young, athletic, promising tandem that could be their starting combination for years to come.
If Allen continues to improve at the rate he has thus far, he could end up being one of the Jets’ best defensive players this season. With his versatility and coverage skills, Allen has a lot of the things teams look for in a strong safety. Continuing to gain experience and learn from Landry will be important, and the Jets are hoping Allen will develop into a quality starter for a long time. For now, his impact as a coverage safety and the potential he showed last season earn him this ranking.