As the Jets stretched before another day of training camp last Tuesday, head coach Rex Ryan moseyed over to Antonio Allen. Allen had begun to settle in at safety in his third year in the league. But Ryan had other plans.
“He came over to me and said, ‘Tonio you’re running with the corners.’ That was it, that’s all he said,” Allen said. “I didn’t expect going to corner. I was expecting just playing safety. But I think it adds to my game. I’m being versatile; I’m athletic. I think I can play anywhere.”
Position changes are nothing new to Allen.
He played linebacker in college at South Carolina, but after the Jets took him in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he was moved to safety. He was a little too lean to play linebacker on Sundays, so he moved to the secondary where his ability to cover ground and make big hits could be an asset.
Now with an injury crisis at cornerback, he was moved to cornerback.
He doesn't know if the move is permanent, but he has the skillset to make a contribution.
“You have to ask Rex about that man, I just don't know,” Allen said.
It was obvious during his transition from linebacker to safety he is less comfortable in space and showed a tendency to creep toward the line. But he's strong in run support and he's long, making him a good match-up against physical wideouts.
In a way, his background as a former linebacker in college is now helping his latest transition.
“It helps me a lot. I get to get physical with the receiver. I do a good job of putting my hands on the receiver. Playing with your eyes, you're going to be in a good position. You have to play good technique, that's the most important,” Allen said. “But it feels good right now, feels comfortable. As a safety, you have to know every position on the field. I feel like it is getting more natural right now.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.