When Devon Allen ripped off a beautiful 55 yard touchdown against the Cleveland Browns in the second preseason game of the summer, it caught the attention of more than a few fans of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Sure, Allen hadn’t played meaningful football in seven years and was exclusively making a living as a professional track and fieldsman, but he was fast, he could stretch the field, and even now, with Quez Watkins already a legit speedster with a low 4.3 speed, having a second vertical threat is never a bad idea, even if it’s all he can really do.
Fans campaigned on social media, debated in comments sections, and made their case for why Allen’s upside as a wide receiver was worth investing a spot on the 53-man roster on. ‘I mean, come on,’ they would effectively say, ‘did you see that pass? There’s no way Allen could make it through waivers after that one.’
Well, up until the preseason finale, that thought process was probably flawed; Allen, through interesting, remained a very sizeable project on offense and would likely take months, if not years, to put it all together. If, for example, a team that wasn’t as accommodating to Allen’s unique circumstances were to claim him off of waivers, he could always just continue to pursue hurdling instead of playing football, and, considering his recent timed-success in the sport – before his .001 second disqualification – that avenue would probably work out quite well.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, their third and final preseason game of the summer changed that. No, after watching Allen look like an offensive project, the collegiate Duck turned in an incredible performance on special teams that may not only secure him a spot on the 53-man roster but could see him active each week of the season due to his proficiencies as a gunner.
Devon Allen can actually make an impact with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022.
There’s an old adage in the NFL that goes a little something like this: if you aren’t a starter, you need to contribute on special teams.
Now granted, this isn’t a universal truth that goes across positions; backup quarterbacks aren’t downing punts, and reserve defensive tackles aren’t chasing down punt returners with seven minutes to go in the second quarter of a 7-7 Week 3 game, but as a general rule, the best ability is versatility in bottom-of-the-roster guys, and that philosophy has kept players like Shaun Bradley and Andre Chachere employed even if they don’t provide much value at their respective positions.
Could Allen fall into that category? Could he be a WR6 with trick play potential offensively who then plays 70 percent of the team’s special teams snaps? Frankly, it isn’t unprecedented.
In 2021, JJ Arcega-Whiteside played the majority of his snaps on special teams, as did Seyi Ajirotutu for the Birds back in 2015, and Matthew Slater, who has been with the New England Patriots since being drafted out of UCLA in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft, has made a great living for himself as a wide receiver/special teams player despite having played more ST snaps in 2021 than offensive snaps over his entire career.
If Allen can put in the work and become a reliable top-4 wide receiver for the Eagles, his decision to trade in the track for the field could look like a genius move, but even if his ceiling is as more of a “gadget guy” than a true offensive difference maker, his ability to contribute on special teams could provide him with a fruitful life far more lucrative than that of a professional hurdler.
If Allen can just learn how to tackle, he might be a problem.
In the past, the Philadelphia Eagles have been willing to use a deep roster spot on a developmental player in the hopes of forging a diamond out of glass. They did it successfully with Jack Stoll and Tarron Jackson in 2021, not so successfully with Reid Sinnett, Tay Gowan, and Kary Vincent Jr. in 2021, and have one of the greatest stash jobs of all time on their resume in Jordan Mailata, who transformed from an unproven Rugby player into an eight-figure starting left tackle before fans’ eyes. If Allen was just that developmental performer who could maybe become somebody down the line it would be one thing, but his ability to immediately make an impact on special teams elevates his status considerably and makes him a strong favorite to make the 53-man roster.