by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
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Ever notice that standard refrain coaches use about players that aren’t in camp?
I’m only going to discuss the players that are here and working.
Today, first round draft pick Jason Allen is one of those guys that Nick Saban won’t discuss. Allen and his agent, Mitch Frankel, are holding out for a contract with a shorter term than the desired six year agreement that the Dolphins seek.
Never let it be said that NFL is not a hard business. If I was Allen’s agent, I’d do everything within reason to ensure my client got the best contract possible in all respects.
That extra year the Dolphins want is a big deal. It dictates when Allen can become an unrestricted free agent. Naturally, Frankel would want that year to come sooner rather than later.
Not surprisingly, the Dolphins aren’t budging. Thus, we have the current standoff.
All of this is, of course, extremely bad for the Dolphins. Allen was drafted to address the severe weakness at safety. They need him. Badly. The alternative is a lesser talent, one that other teams will be certain to exploit, starting with the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers in just about a month.
catch-22 here is that Allen’s value to the team in 2006 is already diminished.
This is usually the case with rookies that hold out. Just ask Ronnie Brown, who
ended up getting a late start last year, didn’t really get rolling on offense
until Week 3 versus
“Last year, unfortunately I missed camp and I think that slowed me down a little bit”, admitted Brown.
It slowed him down a lot. If not for Ricky Williams, the Dolphins wouldn’t have finished above .500.
There is no “Ricky” (i.e. a comparable talent) to cover for Allen.
On offense, being “slowed” means that you don’t gain the yards you are capable of on a play and you punt. On defense, especially at Safety, being "slowed” means you give up six points.
On the Dolphin defense, the risk of this is high given the complex packages they run. It will be even more complex this year as Dom Capers will leverage the previous year’s learnings by installing more blitz packages and coverage combos.
All that complexity is toxic to a rookie because it makes them think more than you’d want. Thinking causes hesitation. Hesitation in the NFL is usually fatal, especially for a defensive back. Hesitation is what happens to someone who is unsure about what they are doing. Hesitation means getting beat.
It was all too apparent that Allen was doing a great deal of thinking during the OTAs, as evidenced by his hesitant body language throughout. This is why Allen needs to be in camp from Day One to not only learn and practice the scheme, but to work on the fundamentals necessary to do the job the right way.
Until he is on the field working, demonstrating an ability to execute the plays, the Dolphins will be faced with the real possibility that Allen won’t be fit to start on Opening Day. Worse, he may not be fit to start at all in 2006 given the limited time coaches have to work on fundamentals and such once the games start counting.
Simply put, they cannot play someone at safety who isn’t prepared mentally or physically to get the job done. Having Allen swimming in playbook terminology, thinking instead of reacting, is a recipe for disaster.
And forget about Allen learning on the job. Don’t think for a minute that Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger won’t exploit that trick to its fullest.
Clearly, that is not what the Dolphins had in mind when they drafted him. Yet this is the reality the Dolphins and Allen face right now for the 2006 season, one where their first round draft pick is resigned to special teams and limited duty on defense.
Remember when Wayne Huizenga gave his personal commitment to ensure that the Dolphins get their players in camp and working from Day One? We can laugh sarcastically at that statement now, but Huizenga was fully aware when he made that comment that Brown’s holdout seriously diminished his rookie year productivity and overall value to the 2005 Dolphins.
A worse fate awaits Allen now, one that could condemn him to a wasted year.
Interestingly, Saban doesn’t seem the least bit concerned, at least publicly. Perhaps he factored this into his long term view and isn’t counting on much from Allen in 2006.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe Allen will show up next week and blow us all away.
I tend to doubt it. History is against Allen’s success as a rookie safety, especially in today’s NFL and especially when a guy holds out.
Be worried. Be very worried.