They had to go for it. In the midst of a playoff push, who wouldn’t go to a future Hall of Famer known for his ability to take the ball away and make things happen. Ed Reed’s career statistics read like this: 64 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and seven returns for touchdown. That first number is good for 6th ALL TIME. That’s ahead of the likes of some the game’s best ever defensive backs like Darren Sharper, Ronnie Lott and Dick LeBeau. The Jets defense in 2013, it only forced 13 interceptions and 15 total turnovers all season. So, I ask again, who wouldn’t take a risk?
The problem is, by signing Ed Reed, the Jets doomed the budding season of Antonio Allen, the 2nd-year safety out of South Carolina. He’s also the player who happened to occupy the position of free safety before the Jets signed Ed Reed. Allen became one of the more consistent defensive backs on the Jets. He would often line up man-to-man in the slot in the Jets nickel and dime packages, and faired pretty well when asked to.
In the Jets rematch against the New England Patriots, Allen drew the assignment of Rob Gronkowski, who was fresh off the injury report. While the stat-line might not reflect it (Gronkowski had 8 catches for 114, but was held without a TD), but the 6’1 safety played his heart out against the Pats’ manchild tight end.
Leading up to the signing of Reed, Antonio Allen’s play consistently improved. In the Jets first nine games, Allen racked up 49 tackles, 7 passes defensed and 1 interception. With the introduction of Reed, Allen’s playing time dropped off a cliff, and his stats reflect it. In the final 7 games of the season, Allen had 12 tackles.
Now, that’s not to say Ed Reed didn’t have a positive impact on the field. The former All-Pro did a remarkable job stats-wise. He tallied 22 tackles and 3 interceptions in his 7 games with the Jets. Those three interceptions total nearly a full 25% of the Jets interceptions on the season. He was who we thought was — a ballhawk who can turn around field position. But Ed Reed is also coming to the end of his storied 12-year career. Those 64 interceptions he’s had also comes with a laundry list of injuries, most notably the one to his neck and most recently, nagging hip and leg injuries, which forced the Houston Texans to release him in the first place.
While he’s recovered nicely from all his injuries, the question remains, how much of an impact did he have on Antonio Allen’s growth. Allen will be the man after Reed leaves, whether that’s next year or two years down the road. And to grow, you generally have to be on the field.
It tough to say how good Allen will be and easier to say he is unlikely to be the next Ed Reed, but to take away time from a promising future is a tough pill to swallow. That being said, safety is as much a position of instincts as any on the field. Being so far away from the quarterback, safeties don’t get affected by the crazy waving arms and gibberish coming out of a quarterback’s mouth. Safeties can study a team’s tendencies, but the ultimate goal is to see ball, take ball or separate ball from man. Playing time has very little to do with that.
Ultimately though, I think it’s in the best interest to get Allen on the field as much as possible. He’s a reliable cover guy who’s physical at the point of attack. If the Jets keep Ed Reed next year, I’d hope the coaches can find a way to get both Reed and Allen on the field at the same time. I think good things could follow.
Brian Pepoon is a full-time producer at WBIR in Knoxville, TN and a life-long football fan. He is an analyst for cover32 Jets and believes what someone lacks in skill and natural talent can be made up for in hard work, preparation and the fear of being bested. Follow him on Twitter at @iamBrianPepoon.
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