Full disclosure; I've been in Jeff Allen's corner longer than most of you.
Prior to 2015, there was always a lot of talk about replacing Allen, how he was a weakness, and a bunch of other generally negative stuff. Any time the offensive line came up, at least one person would chime in that the Chiefs needed to upgrade on Allen.
I never bought in. By my eyes, Allen has improved every season he has been with the Chiefs and became a decent player a couple of years ago. I always liked the attitude he brings to the line, as well as his brute strength. When I wrote about him playing RT early in 2015, I described him as effective in a distinctly not-pretty kind of way. I stand by that description when it comes to Allen at tackle.
However, we got to see him play quite a bit of guard this year as well. So it behooved me (honestly, I just wanted to use the word "behooved." It was everything I thought it would be) to take a look at some of his film at guard in 2015 to see where he's at.
With free agency looming, there was more of a time limit than I normally have on film reviews. As such, I took a look at three of Allen's games at guard (there were already existing numbers from a game at RT, bringing the number of games to four). That's a pretty small sample size, so I tried to prevent a chance that we would only see his best games by reviewing his games against Detroit (his first game back at G, so there's a rust factor), Denver (an exceptional defensive line), and Houston (a solid front with good players).
Here, let's take a quick GIF breakdown for those of you with a short attention span...
Does anyone have John Dorsey's contact info? I'd like to send this to him. Or maybe to Allen's agent. SHEESH. pic.twitter.com/DiM2WRFWuE— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) March 2, 2016
Now, if you have read an offensive line film review by me before, feel free to skip this paragraph. For those of you who are new, I track wins and losses in both pass and run blocking. A win is a play in which the OL clearly controls the action and takes a defender out of the play. A loss is when he gets beat. A play that's in between (which is the majority of the time for most offensive linemen) or a play where the lineman didn't really have to do anything (like a quick throw the other way) is labeled as a "neutral."
The number I pay attention to the most is loss percentage. Ideally, you don't want a loss percentage greater than 10 percent. Why that number? Well, if you'll look back through the multiple film reviews done by myself and our own Stagdsp on this very site, you'll see that it's a good separating spot from good and bad performances. The main job of an offensive lineman is to not let plays get blown up. So if an OL has a very low loss percentage, he gave his team a chance to succeed. Win percentage is what can take performances to the next level. If a lineman rarely loses but rarely wins, that's solid. If he rarely loses and wins quite a bit? Now we're talking about a great game.
All right, with that out of the way, let's look at Allen's numbers and talk about what his film shows. 248 total snaps were reviewed, with the following results:
|Game||Pass Blk Wins||Pass Blk Losses||Run Blk Wins||Run Blk Losses||Neutral||Win %||Loss %|
First, you should know there are a lot more opportunities to gather individual wins when playing at RT than at RG. Given the way NFL defenses attack offensive lines, you're more likely to be left one-on-one when you play on the outside than when you play on the inside. Every play (that doesn't involve a blitz) leaves at least one offensive lineman without a guy to block on his own. It then becomes his job to provide help. Such plays rarely result in what I'd grade as a "win," because they're at an advantage as part of a double team. So you'll see a bit of numbers skewing in the win direction in the PIT game.
I really don't have a lot to say about the numbers. They speak for themselves (keeping in mind the subjectivity involved in grading a win, loss, or neutral). Allen was consistently solid regardless of where he played. It's especially worth noting that even against a very good Denver front Allen more than held his own, numbers-wise. It sometimes seemed like Alex Smith was running for his life every other play against those guys. I assure you, that was not all due to Allen (or Mitch Morse, to give you a quick preview of his review).
Allen was a big part of the run game taking a front seat down the stretch as the season went along. He's a very, very good run blocker. He demonstrates very good strength to get push, the agility to move to the second level and take out linebackers or secondary players, and a real attitude. When I talked about Jah Reid playing guard, one of my favorite aspects of his game was that he looks to bury people. Allen is the same way, and it showed up on film.
Additionally, Allen just knows what to do as an offensive lineman. That sounds like a simple enough thing, but being in the right place at the exact right time (not a half-second early or late) can make all the difference on a play.
Jeff Allen is an asset in the run game. Helps Fish get push, gets to LB, controls and directs him w/ his strength. pic.twitter.com/1PjjWSZuHD— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) March 3, 2016
The shot Allen takes at Big Fish's defender helps him get momentum (which Fisher then uses to shove him into the next state). But Allen doesn't take more than a split second to provide this help and is IMMEDIATELY on the linebacker, walling him off and providing a lane for Charcandrick West to run through. Him doing both things well is the difference between a short gain and a solid gain.
Plays like that don't flash to fans the way a pancake in the open field does, but they are exponentially more important. Making the correct decision and executing said decision well, snap after snap, is what separates mediocre linemen from good linemen. And Jeff Allen falls into the latter group.
The most obvious strength Allen has, whether he's playing RT or G, is his strength. He has a great deal of grown man in his game, and it shows up. When he's on the outside, he's able to freeze smaller edge rushers once he gets his hands on them. They just aren't able to get anywhere with him because he can so effortlessly redirect them. With larger interior defenders, Allen is often able to stonewall bull rushes, even when he's taken at a disadvantage initially.
Good snap to demonstrate Allen's strength. Able to recover from rough start and just freeze the defender. pic.twitter.com/xiHu8go60Y— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) March 4, 2016
A guy like Mitch Morse, who has functional strength but is more of a technician, can get in trouble when he gets taken for a step initially. Not Allen. He's got the upper body strength to lock onto the defender and stop his forward momentum, giving him enough time to reset his feet. Bull rushes just don't work on Allen, even when executed by mammoths like Vince Wilfork. Allen was left one-on-one against Wilfork on more than a few snaps, and not once was WIlfork able to get functional push on Allen. It's very impressive.
Allen's strength allows him to play a little more relaxed, if that makes sense. He doesn't have a lunge or lean in order to stop strength moves. This helps him in other ways. I don't think I saw him get beat by a swim or spin move one time on the interior. These rush moves don't work because they're designed to take advantage of a guessing offensive lineman. Allen doesn't have to guess, though. He can wait for the defender to come to him because the defender having momentum doesn't matter. He'll just freeze him anyway.
If I were to say Allen has a weakness, I'd say it's his lateral movement. When he plays RT it becomes a lot more noticeable. He's just a great side-to-side guy with his feet. Again, he's a lot like Jah Reid in this regard. However, he shows more quickness than Reid and doesn't let it get in the way of his functionality at RT. And when he's at G it's not really noticeable. At G, in the phone booth, Allen looks like he's at home.
In short, Jeff Allen was solid at RT and very good at G for the Chiefs in 2015. His versatility and ability were a big part of the offense transitioning from blech to competent down the stretch. He doesn't lose much, and multiple times a game he buries a defender and nearly starts a fight. I love it.
We haven't heard much about Allen as a pending free agent. For me, that's concerning. The offensive line has been an issue for the entirety of Andy Reid's tenure with the Chiefs. Last season, that slowly began to change as the season wound down (though it didn't totally vanish). The problem is there are some real unknowns along the line outside of Mitch Morse and Eric Fisher, starting with Ben Grubbs' health.
In the face of that kind of uncertainty, it seems like a poor move to not keep a guy like Allen around. If they lock him down and pick a position for him (he's best at guard, but then again so is Jah Reid, who the Chiefs just extended), that would go a long way to assuring themselves competent offensive line play next season.
The only reasoning I could get on board with where the Chiefs do not retain Allen is if they believe Grubbs will be back healthy next year and Reid is a guy they're comfortable with at RG (which I would agree with, by the way. Reid did well at RG), AND they don't think Allen is a viable option at RT. For me, personally, the wisest course of action if Grubbs is healthy is to get Allen re-signed and make clear from the start he's being retained at RT. Then go with a line of Fisher / Grubbs / Morse / Reid / Allen.
I would be very, very, very comfortable with that group in 2016, with Fulton and LDT providing interior depth and a signing or draftee being a swing tackle.
Then again, it takes two to tango, and it could well be that Allen is looking at a decent payday from a team that likes his tape at G. And they should. Because to quote Geoff Schwartz...
@ArrowheadPride @RealMNchiefsfan Jeff can ball. Weird how everyone around him got better when he was in, like Fisher— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) March 3, 2016
Yeah, Jeff can ball. I hope it's with the Chiefs.