As they routinely have in the past, the New England Patriots are again playing free agency slowly this year. Even though they had to watch numerous players leave the team over the last week — including quarterback Tom Brady and starting-caliber defenders Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins Sr. and Danny Shelton — the Patriots themselves have been relatively quiet so far and brought just four players aboard from outside the organization.
One of those signings was defensive lineman Beau Allen, who joined the team on a reported two-year contract on Wednesday. A former seventh-round draft pick who started his career with the Philadelphia Eagles before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2018 offseason, Allen is a big-bodied interior defender that should help the Patriots fill the void created when the aforementioned Danny Shelton signed a free agency deal in Detroit.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at him.
Allen is coming off the worst season of his career
New England signed the 28-year-old to a two-year, $8 million contract. While the structure of the deal will tell more about it than the raw numbers, it seems as if the team is feeling good about his outlook within its defensive system and confident that he can bounce back from what was arguably the worst season of his six years in the NFL. Allen, after all, played only a limited rotational role along the Buccaneers’ defensive front.
Appearing in 13 games before an ankle injury effectively ended his campaign, Allen was on the field for just 175 total defensive snaps and registered a mere four quarterback pressures — both his lowest totals since entering the league. He was also credited with a run stop rate of just 3.7% (three stops on 81 run-game snaps) by advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus, meaning that his impact in the ground game was also comparatively limited.
Allen has experience in both three- and four-man fronts
While 2019 was a disappointing season for Allen, it would not be surprising to see him benefit from a change of scenery. New England might therefore be the ideal landing spot for him: the team regularly adapts it scheme and player-usage to fit the strengths of its personnel instead of the other way around — something that has helped other recent veteran additions such as Shelton or Lawrence Guy carve out significant roles on the defense.
For Allen to follow their footsteps and become a prominent member of the Patriots’ defensive tackle rotation, he needs to prove himself capable of playing more than just one role. Luckily for him, he did just that throughout his career and has lined up in both three-and four-man fronts since coming in to the league in 2014 — something he pointed out while with the Buccaneers and their 4-3-based defense last offseason.
“I can’t tell you how valuable it is, whether it’s me or a guy that’s a rookie just to kind of, in a new scheme, play a bunch of different positions. [...] I’ve worked in 3-4 schemes; I did it in Philly for two years,” Allen said. Given that New England uses a hybrid front that allows the team to shift its defense based on the opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, having this kind of versatility should be valuable and help him earn a prominent role.
Allen was solid as an interior penetrator in Philadelphia
While his tenure in Tampa Bay was plagued by up-and-down performances and similarly inconsistent playing time, Allen did look good as an interior pass rusher when he played in Philadelphia between 2014 and 2017. During his last two seasons with the Eagles, the Wisconsin product registered a combined 46 quarterback pressures: according to advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus, he notched a pair of sacks as well as six quarterback hits and 38 additional hurries.
Allen is certainly not among the league’s premier interior pass rushers, but might be a slight upgrade over Danny Shelton in this department if he is able to return to his form from 2016 and 2017. Shelton, for comparison, registered 32 quarterback disruptions during his two years in New England while primarily serving as an early-down defender.
Allen was regularly used in the kicking game
Both the Buccaneers and the Eagles used Allen as a member of their special teams units. Playing primarily on the field goal and extra point teams both from an offensive and a defensive perspective, he played a combined 659 snaps in the kicking game since entering the NFL six years ago. Given that the game’s third phase has always been a priority to the Patriots’ roster construction, it would therefore not be a surprise if this usage continued in 2020.
Allen has seven snaps as a fullback on his résumé
Last year, the Patriots turned to linebacker Elandon Roberts to serve as an emergency fullback down the stretch after both James Develin and Jakob Johnson had to be placed on season-ending injured reserve. The team seems to be better prepared should a similar situation unfold in 2020 — New England added Danny Vitale in free agency to offer depth alongside Develin and Johnson — but Allen’s history also is a minor factor to consider.
After all, the Eagles used him as a part-time fullback in 2016: he played a combined seven snaps in that role over a four-game stretch, highlighting his ability to work more than one role if asked to. While the Patriots will hope that they never have to rely on Allen to line up in the backfield, it does illustrate his willingness to adapt and also should give him a better understanding of offensive concepts.
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