IRVING, Texas – After a brief stint on the Cowboys' sideline, Will Allen is back about the business of securing a starting safety spot.
Allen spent his Wednesday alongside Barry Church as the Cowboys' starting safety tandem, after spending a sizable chunk of team OTAs nursing minor injuries. It's not exactly unfamiliar territory for the 10-year veteran, as he has 33 NFL starts to his name. But the promise of extended playing time was one of the allures of Dallas – among other things.
"I know the defense, and there's an opportunity here to start – as a safety in the NFL, and as a safety for the Dallas Cowboys," Allen said. "It's a great group of guys here. I mean, look at our defensive line – it's the best in the league, if not then it's top one or two. Why not play behind those guys?"
It's an interesting dynamic for the Ohio State product. On one hand Allen is one of the most veteran voices on the roster – his 10 years in the league is fewer only than Tony Romo and Jason Witten. On the other hand, his arrival in March makes him one of the newest Cowboys in the building. It makes for an interesting learning process in the Cowboys' new defense under Monte Kiffin.
"There's still some small nuances and some things that I have to learn, even in my 10th year. I just spent three years in a 3-4," Allen said. "Even though I played in this defense under Monte Kiffin before, there's small nuances changing and you've got to learn it – understand body position, understand where your help is, understand where all the players are on the field – it's just a little different."
Allen's familiarity with Kiffin's defense has been the main storyline behind his arrival since he signed a free agent contract in March. Though Kiffin said himself Wednesday that familiarity isn't what brought the veteran to Texas.
"He's a veteran guy. He's been around. He knows this system. But he's not here because he knows this system," Kiffin said. "You don't bring in a guy because he played the system. Can he still play here? We feel like he'll be a good addition."
The relative youth of the Cowboys' safeties isn't lost on Allen, who spent three years backing up high-level starters Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark in Pitssburgh. He said the nuances of preparation are something that escaped him as a younger player, which he hopes to share with those around him in his new locker room.
"It's hard when you're young, because you really don't get it – you do what you're told and try to let your athletic ability take over. But then once you start seeing the big picture -- start seeing how offenses try to attack you, start studying more film, understanding routes and concepts and how certain wide receivers respond to routes – the game gets really, really easy," he said. "But you've got to be a student and want to understand that part of the game. That's been one of the attributes that's helped me, and hopefully I can help some teammates with that kind of knowledge and wisdom." [embedded_ad]
In the meantime, Allen still has to prove himself as the man for the job over the likes of Matt Johnson, Danny McCray or even rookie J.J. Wilcox. Despite missing several practices during OTAs, he said his experience has helped him ease right back into the action just in time for training camp.
"I don't feel like it's a drop off, I just haven't seen a lot as far as experience with this offense," Allen said. "But now, day two of minicamp, I'm moving faster, seeing it quicker. So I feel great, I feel fine."