While the New England Patriots kept Adam Butler by placing the second-round restricted free agency tender on him, they had to watch another member of their defensive tackle rotation depart via free agency: Danny Shelton signed a two-year contract with the Detroit Lions, leaving New England after two seasons and creating the need for another big-bodied defender up front — a need that was quickly filled by the Patriots again.
On the same day as Shelton departed, the team signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles interior defensive lineman Beau Allen to a two-year, $7 million pact. Given his frame — Allen is listed at 6-foot-3, 327 pounds — it is only natural to assume that he will fill the role previously held by Shelton as an early-down run stuffer who will asked to take on two-gap responsibilities to free up space for the second-level defenders behin him.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at him.
Holding the ground in the running game
While he saw only marginally less playing time in pass rushing situations during his two seasons with the Buccaneers — 276 snaps compared to 287 running game snaps, according to Pro Football Focus — Allen’s strong suit is his ability to hold his ground in the running game and close any potential opening. He may not post flashy numbers, but he is capable of doing his job and making sure that those around him can leave their mark on a play:
New Patriot Beau Allen mostly played NT for the Bucs, spending most snaps at 2i or 0 technique.— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 19, 2020
Allen did well extending and holding his ground against single blocks on gap/inside zone runs. Showed solid lateral ability working to the front side of linemen vs outside zone pic.twitter.com/fcNn1xHMqr
As can be seen, Allen (#91) is strong at the point of attack and has shown an ability to extend his ground when facing single blocks on gap or inside zone runs. His one-handed push against Tennessee Titans center Ben Jones (#60) on the first play above illustrates this: he is able to keep the gap to Jones’ right outside shoulder closed by not giving any ground against him and using his solid balance and upper-body strength to collapse the play.
Allen also showed some solid lateral ability working to the front side of linemen when facing outside zone runs — something shown on his pursuit of New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (#41). Kamara receives the pitch and immediately starts heading for the perimeter, but Allen is able to quickly pursue from his 0-technique position. While he fails to make a stop on the shifty back, he closes any cut-back lanes and eventually extends his long arms to trip him.
All in all, Allen has proven himself a capable defender from the inside positions. Lining up mostly at the 2i- or 0-technique spots, he has given the Buccaneers a stout presence up front versus the run in both 2018 and 2019. That said, there is room for improvement as the following two clips will illustrate.
Inconsistency against double teams
The first tackles Allen’s inconsistency when playing against double teams — something that is obviously not ideal when aligning at the nose on a regular basis: he often comes off the ball too high and as a result gets stood up easily and driven off his spot. The first of the next two plays, which has him align over the offensive left-side A-gap in a 1-technique stance, is a good example of his up-and-down performance when forced to hold down two players:
Allen’s problems come when he has to face double teams, which isn’t ideal at the nose spot.— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 19, 2020
Comes off the ball too high and gets stood up easily, often getting driven way off his spot pic.twitter.com/ZP97vJvRXO
The San Francisco 49ers’ center-left guard combo block drives him back off the ball immediately after the snap, and he fails to establish some upfield momentum even after center Weston Richburg (#58) peels off the block to move towards the second level. The second play, which is similar in nature, shows the same issues: Allen does not get low enough and gets driven back by the two blockers — creating a lane for running back Matt Breida (#22) to exploit.
Limited pass-rushing upside
As opposed to other teams’ defensive schemes, the Patriots’ does not ask its defensive tackles to aggressively rush up the field against the pass. They rather should hold their own and limit space for the quarterback to climb into while edge or second-level defenders make plays on him. Such a usage should bode well for Allen, who has shown only limited upside as a pass rushing defensive tackle while in Tampa:
Flashed some hand quickness and works hard to push the pocket, but like most NTs Allen is a virtual non-factor getting after the passer. Won’t be asked to much so not a huge factor pic.twitter.com/jffIs34VDc— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 19, 2020
He did flash some hand quickness and works hard to push the pocket, but like most big-bodied nose tackles — take the aforementioned Danny Shelton as an example — he is a virtual non-factor when it comes to actually getting after the passer. As noted above, however, this should not present too much of a problem in the Patriots’ system as long as he can successfully hold his own at the line of scrimmage.
All in all, Allen should therefore expected to have a similar impact on New England’s defense as Danny Shelton: he will likely serve as a big-bodied two-gapper from the interior positions — aligning anywhere from the nose to the 3-technique spot — whose main responsibilities lie in the running game. While that means he will likely not post any impressive statistics, his role and importance to the Patriots’ defensive operation alongside Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler cannot be underestimated.