Amidst a series of flashy off-season additions, Ricardo Allen flew under the radar for the Cincinnati Bengals. After six seasons as a starter with the Atlanta Falcons, the Bengals added the veteran to its young defense. With the team in desperate need of identity building, Allen brings some spice to the table. Plus, in the run-heavy AFC North, another roaming weapon could prove quite valuable.
Heading Into 2021, Ricardo Allen Might End Up Being an Off-Season Steal
Over the last two off-seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have been quite aggressive in defensive spending. Many of those moves brought a good deal of excitement from the fanbase, especially in the trenches. However, the move to bring Ricardo Allen to town left some confusion amongst the Cincinnati faithful. Considering Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III are prepped to be the league’s top safety duo, a veteran like Allen left some question marks. In the grand scheme of things, Allen probably won’t end up starting many (if any) games for the Bengals. Instead, he could become one of their best value on the margins. Given his one-year, $1.5 million pact, he might wind up greatly outplaying his contract value.
First of all, the team simply needs more veterans like the 29-year-old ballhawk. Allen has 76 starts in 77 career games in his career. This season will be the first time he’ll be used more as a rotational weapon. Certainly, it could be a downgrade for some, but for Allen, it might give him a chance to augment his best assets. Ricardo Allen has a tremendous feel for the game and has learned to read running backs quite well. Cincinnati has been the league’s worst rushing defense over the past two seasons, a trend that needs to end in 2021. While Allen isn’t a catch-all solution, he could be a big step in the right direction. Additionally, his 66.3 run stop grade from 2020 is also the seventh-highest of any Bengal currently on the roster.
Ricardo Allen Brings Prior Success From Within the Bengals Defensive Scheme and System
Interestingly, Allen has a relationship with the Bengals defensive coordinator, Lou Anarumo. Allen played his college ball under Anarumo at Purdue, where the duo linked up for the safety’s freshman and sophomore seasons. Over those two seasons, Allen compiled 6.5 tackles for loss, 6 interceptions, 152 tackles, 8 pass break-ups, 2 touchdowns, and a sack. Clearly, Anarumo found ways for Allen to get involved all over the field. Plus, during his 2011 season at Purdue, Allen wound up as a member of the Big Ten’s All-Conference team. Certainly, the college and pro games are different animals and it’s been eight years since the duo collaborated. Still, Allen is known as a smart player with a good grasp of defensive concepts. If he retained even some of Anarumo’s strategies, it’ll go a long way towards instant impact for the Bengals.
Further, his experience and success in Anarumo’s defense will be valuable for the team’s safety depth. Last season, Bates and Bell each partook in the range of 99% of the Bengals defensive snaps. In the circumstance that either misses time or generally needs a breather, Allen provides immediate rotational value. Plus, he plays with the same hard-knocking, high-IQ style that Bell brings to the table. Given this team’s recent injury history, especially in the secondary, having that weapon is a pretty big deal. Especially in a division that relies so heavily on creative defensive design in the run-stop, his availability is a plus.
With the Linebacking Room a Clear Weak Point, Allen’s Versatility Will Be Crucial
While he’s a positional safety at 5’9”, 186 Lbs, Allen is destined to assist the team’s young linebackers. After all, he’s been used more as a weakside linebacker and slot safety for Atlanta’s defenses in recent campaigns. There’s no doubt that the team will need all the help they can get in that room. Currently, the starter duo projects as solid second-year player Logan Wilson and suspect third-year man Germaine Pratt. Neither was particularly impressive in the run-stop effort last year. Conversely, it’s an area where Allen excels when dropped into the middle of the defense. Not to mention, this is a team that’s been atop many of Lamar Jackson’s highlight reels for all the wrong reasons. Allen, who has a great nose for the football, can have a major role in slowing Jackson’s attack.
Think you'll see Ricardo Allen get a lot of usage like this in the #Bengals defense this season. Looks as a coverage linebacker and in the slot.
This is a good example of that look; IDs McKinnon well, uses the blocker to his advantage, makes a tackle for loss in the flat. pic.twitter.com/ohS7CTvu8A
— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) July 11, 2021
Further, Allen has a strong statistical resume and is three years older than the team’s oldest linebacker. Across his six-year career, Allen has 340 tackles, 11 interceptions, and 26 pass defenses, giving him proof of professional success. With the team’s linebackers all bringing four-or-less years of experience to the table, they need his brand of veteran leadership. The team could still opt to bring in a veteran like Josh Bynes or trade for Jordan Hicks. At this point, it seems unlikely that they’ll add and instead get creative. Seemingly, Allen should be playing quite a few snaps at linebacker.
Allen isn’t the only veteran investment the team made at safety this off-season, the other being Kavon Frazier. However, Allen’s acumen and experience with playing at a high level make him a pretty valuable investment. While he won’t change the team’s destiny in a grand fashion, his low-cost contract makes him a sneaky, smart addition.
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