Bringing back a series I had a lot of fun exploring the last several offseasons. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.
Marcus Allen – Become A Special Teams Standout
Allen had a sort of weird rookie season. A lot of time in street clothes on gameday – he loves those 1980, NBA-looking shorts, by the way – but when he did receive a helmet, he ended up playing more snaps on defense (18) than on special teams (12). Not what you expected when the Steelers drafted him.
He had a few snaps as the dimebacker, mostly against the Los Angeles Chargers, the infamous “ran out of smoke” game as Mike Tomlin would claim after the game, and logging a couple more in the regular season finale. Allen may be in the mix for that dime role in 2019, assuming Morgan Burnett is gone, but he shouldn’t be the clubhouse’s leader. Another name has to be brought in, be it free agency or draft. So let’s assume Allen doesn’t win that job. He’ll probably be active and that’s gotta mean one thing: make an impact on special teams.
A hard-hitter out of Penn State, you figured Allen’s floor was a core special teamer. Given that pittance of a snap count, and the fact he’s yet to record a single special teams tackle, he has a ways to go. But he’s moved up the ladder, no longer the wide-eyed rookie, and should have a chance to run down kicks and punts while putting his hand in the pile on the return team.
Ideally, he can give Sean Davis or Terrell Edmunds the heave-ho on the punt coverage unit. Few things baffle me than the fact the Steelers, and I have to imagine they’re the only team, play both starting safeties on that punt unit, asking them to sprint downfield 40 yards and then go play defense for a potentially 12 play drive.
If Allen can supplant Davis as the left wing or Edmunds as the left tackle there, I’m all for it. And if he can’t make his way onto those units and become, at least, a three phase guy (punt cover, kick cover, punt return seems to make the most sense), then what’s his role on the roster? What’s his value? Not much more than a guy to see in street clothes, if we’re being honest.
That’s what he’s aiming for. He’s made the roster. Gotten the briefest taste of what the NFL brings. Now he has to work the ladder like most 5th round picks do. Time to stand out on special teams. That means good technique, sure tackling, and for the love of everything Myron Cope, no penalties. Doing so will earn Danny Smith’s trust.
Here’s my target goal: Allen ends this year similar to Jordan Dangerfield, who played a little more than 300 special teams snaps in 2018.