FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Antonio Allen cornerback experiment is likely winding down. On Monday, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan indicated Allen would be going back to his natural position at safety, ending a frustrating stretch for Allen, an athletic defensive player who was asked to learn the playbook for the entire backfield each week.
“That’s the way the game goes, people are forced to be in positions they’re not used to,” Allen said. “You can complain about it or you can be quiet and go to work as usual, and that’s what I did. I mean, I did my best. I probably gave up a touchdown every game, but I mean, hey, that was a sacrifice they was willing to give up. That’s what it is.”
Allen probably would have preferred it if Jets general manager John Idzik had just gone out and brought in a free agent corner after injuries to Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle took out the team’s top two corners. But the Jets stuck with Allen, and the free agents that have been brought in would likely be third-stringers on most other teams.
“(The change) definitely will be comfortable, they’re taking some of the load off me,” said Allen, who's in his third season with the Jets. “But I did whatever I could do at corner and I did it to the best of my ability and I’m going to do the same at safety when I move back.”
Allen was tapped because of his quickness and athleticism, and he did well at first. Luckily, his bosses seem to understand that Allen was given a heavier burden than most members of the defense.
“It was a tough move in the first place, one that we were looking at to try and see if he could do it,” defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said. "We have moved him back to safety and we’ll see how he does."
Jaiquawn Jarrett, who also plays safety, said the experience will only make Allen a better player down the road.
“Tone plays numerous positions going back and forth from corner to safety,” Jarrett said. “But he should stick with it and get better every day. He comes to work every day with the mantra to get better. Being able to play multiple positions is going to help him.”
Allen (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) was benched in the second half of a loss to Kansas City last week. It didn’t help that Darrin Walls, who was also tapped to start this injury-plagued season, was out with a knee/calf injury and Marcus Williams, recently signed off the practice squad, was the other starting corner.
“I did everything I could do,” Allen said, “and maybe he wanted to see if one of the other corner guys could go in and give a better look, and I think that’s all they did.”
Jarrett was impressed by Allen’s willingness to take on the role and said he hadn’t been asked and wouldn’t have attempted it. “No, no, no,” Jarrett said. “Tone’s more athletic.” But Jarrett was glad to see Allen try.
“It doesn’t hurt to try something out,” Jarrett said. “You can try something out and see if you might be able to play another position as well to help the team. Sometimes you might not be able to play the position, and that’s not going to hurt you or hurt them. They just want to get the feel of, is there anything else you can do?”
Thurman said that being a good teammate and stepping outside of his comfort zone wouldn’t count against Allen. The Jets are 1-8, and a lack of corners on the roster isn’t the only way they got there.
“We asked him to do something to help the team, and he did it,” Thurman said. “What else can you say?”