Devon Allen shows up as elite special teamer, but is it enough?


Seeing Devon Allen the first couple weeks of training camp, it was hard to imagine the Eagles even keeping him around on the practice squad much less the 53.

It was that bad.

Now, Allen is making a legitimate roster push, and while he’s still a long shot to survive final cuts on Tuesday, he’s sure making things interesting.

Last week was our first chance to see Allen’s playmaking potential when he raced under a Reid Sinnett bomb for a 55-yard touchdown against the Browns. 

And on Saturday in Miami, he made three eye-opening plays on special teams that also illustrate his potential value.

In the second quarter, he was the first man down on an Arryn Siposs punt and although he didn’t get credit for tackling Dolphins returner Lynn Bowden Jr., he grabbed his leg and stopped him at the 6-yard-line until help arrived in the form of Mario Goodrich and Matt Leo.

Early in the third quarter, Allen again beat everybody down the field on a Siposs punt, indirectly causing Dolphins returner Preston Williams to fumble. Although Williams fumbled a moment before Allen hit him, Allen’s presence steaming down the field and getting in Williams’ face as he tried to field the punt certainly contributed to the muff, which Leo recovered at the Dolphins’ 9-yard-line and set up an Eagles field goal.

Later in the third quarter, Allen was again first down the field and downed a Siposs punt from deep in Eagles territory at the 38-yard line. 

These are all impact plays and the kind of plays that can energize a special teams unit, which is something the Eagles desperately need. 

They were among the worst in the NFL in virtually every phase in the return game last year – 28th in punt return average, 29th in kick return average, 28th covering punts, 28th covering kicks – and Allen is showing he can help.

What’s been most impressive and probably surprising about Allen’s game is just how physical he’s been.

On the Williams muff, Allen mixed it up with Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou as they raced down the field and really bodied him out of the way. Once he got in front of him, it was over. Nobody can match Allen’s speed in the open field. 

Allen looked lost his first couple weeks in training camp, and that’s understandable. He was out there after a five-year layoff practicing against guys who’ve been playing football all their lives.

He said his first couple days he could even hear his teammates giggling as he tried to knock the rust off and figure out what he was doing. And when he ran, somehow he didn’t even look that fast.

But something clicked about two weeks ago. All of a sudden, we started seeing Allen catch the ball consistently in practice, and we started to see his comfort level increase exponentially. 

He began to actually look like a football player.

As Allen started to grow comfortable just wearing pads and playing football again, his unparalleled speed began to show up. When you know what you’re doing and you’re out there just playing and not thinking or hesitating, it allows your natural speed to take over, and that’s what we’re seeing now. 

Allen’s transformation almost overnight from an overmatched, out-of-place rookie trying to re-learn the game he's been away from for half a decade to a potentially elite special teamer and situational receiver has been incredible to watch.

Dave Zangaro made a great point about Allen Saturday night on the Eagle Eye podcast.

Allen may not be a world-class football player, but he is a world-class athlete. He’s a two-time Olympic finalist in the 110-meter hurdles, a four-time U.S. champion, the 3rd-fastest hurdler in the history of the world.

You have to have a supreme amount of inner confidence to reach the pinnacle in any sport, and that confidence, that supreme belief in himself, helped Allen fight through the inevitable challenges as he tried to resume playing a sport he hadn’t played since 2016.

So the big question is has Allen done enough?

Final cuts are just two days away, and while Allen has clearly improved his roster chances over the last couple weeks he’s still fighting an uphill battle.

A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal are the wide receiver locks. Then you have Jalen Reagor, Britain Covey, Deon Cain and Allen basically fighting for one and maybe two spots.

Covey got off to a hot start and has return skills but has come back to Earth. Cain has been very good, although Saturday night was not his best performance. Reagor is probably not going anywhere, unless the Eagles trade him.

Most likely, it leaves Allen on the practice squad, assuming nobody claims him. 

But there is still a chance the Eagles have grown so enamored of the potential impact Allen can have on a moribund special teams unit that they do find a spot for him on the 53. 

What we saw Saturday night was so intriguing Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni have to at least be considering it.

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