Falcons’ Allen likes rotation, but not decreased playing time

Atlanta Falcons safety Ricardo Allen, left, defends against cornerback Darqueze Dennard, right, during an NFL training camp football practice Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)
Atlanta Falcons safety Ricardo Allen, left, defends against cornerback Darqueze Dennard, right, during an NFL training camp football practice Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Free safety Ricardo Allen, who has been a mainstay on the defense since Dan Quinn was named the head coach, played only 40 percent of the defensive snaps in the 38-25 loss to Seattle on Sunday.

The secondary, with or without Allen, must play tighter coverage. All 35 of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s throws were into open windows as no one was within less than a year of the intended receiver, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.

The most passes in a game without a tight window throw was 30 by Derek Carr in 2019 against the Chargers. Tight windows first started getting tracked in 2016.

“I think we made it too easy,” Quinn said. “That would be more along the lines of having multiple looks in coverage for a quarterback who’s as accurate as Russ is. I would say that’s one for sure we’d like to have over and it would be different. More, not just tighter, more adjustments and more variations I would say.”

After being drafted in the fifth-round of the 2014 draft, Allen was cut by the Falcons and had to battle through the practice squad to make his way to the roster.

When Quinn was named the head coach, Allen, who played cornerback in college at Purdue, was moved to free safety. He played 80% of the snaps in 2015, 99% in 2016, 91% in 2017, 19% in 2018 after suffering an ruptured Achilles and played 91% of the snaps last season.

With Keanu Neal’s return from a ruptured Achilles, the Falcons elected to keep Damontae Kazee at free safety and play Allen and Neal at times in a big nickel alignment and they have a dime (six defensive backs) alignment when they’ll play together.

Allen said he likes the theory behind the safety rotation, but not the missing 60% of the snaps part.

“I liked the safety rotation because it gives us a chance to do what we do very well,” Allen said. "It lets Keke go in there and tear some things up. It lets Kazee flow and it lets me kind of feel in where needed because I can play every position. I liked it. It kept me fresher, but I still have to get used to it because I’m used to being on the field all of the time.

“Will take it day by day, play by play.”

Neal made six tackles and missed one tackle against the Seahawks. Kazee, who has 10 interceptions over the past two seasons, had two tackles. Allen did not have a tackle.

Quinn said Allen’s drop in snaps was a function of Seattle playing a lot of double-tight end formations.

“I think it’s on a game by game basis,” Quinn said of Allen’s snaps. "They have used probably more two tight end sets as opposed to three wide receivers. Depending on the game and the situation and how the people want to utilize their personnel.

“I think that will factor into it, where Keke and Ricardo there’s going up and down and Kazee to a certain extent. Probably, Keke and Ricardo.”

Dallas, the Falcons upcoming opponent, did use a lot of three wide-receiver formations in the Sunday night loss to the Rams.

“There will be other games as we’re getting further along, we’ve got Keanu into a dime linebacker spot as well,” Quinn said. “Let’s see how they are progressing and certainly coming back off the injury with Keke as well.”

Overall, Quinn was pleased with the play of the safeties.

“I thought from the tackling standpoint, that’s where I thought one miss with Keke,” Quinn said. “Kazee in the middle of the field played with good energy and played hard. But overall in the secondary, there would be some plays they’d like to have over and certainly would do differently.”

In addition to the safeties, the cornerbacks had their moments.

Rookie A.J. Terrell, who was drafted 16th overall, made his first NFL start

“I expected him to play tough and aggressive and he certainly did,” Quinn said.

Terrell did get beat on a double-move route, but that’s kind of a rite of passage for rookie cornerbacks.

“He challenged at the line of scrimmage,” Quinn said. “He tackled well. He played with the physicality that he showed in training camp.”

Right cornerback Isaiah Oliver was beaten on a fourth-and-5 play for a 38-yard touchdown to wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, who came out of Mississippi with the reputation as one-trick pony. His one trick is running the streak and that’s what he used on Oliver.

Because of the down and distance, Oliver appeared to guess on a short route and couldn’t catch up to the speedy Metcalf once he took off.

The Falcons were hoping that Kendall Sheffield would beat out Oliver, but Sheffield has been out with a foot injury. He watched the game from the sideline wearing a boot.

“We definitely missed him yesterday, with his speed and ability to match up,” Quinn said. “That’s why Sheff has unique things.”

Sheffield doesn’t appear to be returning soon, while cornerback Jordan Miller has two more games to serve on his suspension for using performing-enhancing drugs.

“As far as his availability, it’s on a week by week of where we are at and seeing how he’s doing,” Quinn said. “I don’t have any updates regarding him from the game. We’ll see what it looks like for him for this week. We don’t anticipate it being a long-term issue. But we’ll keep you updated as soon as we know more. But we certainly missed him yesterday.”

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