How Much How Soon?

When the Dolphins selected Jason Allen with their first-round pick last April, the hope was that he could make an immediate impact on a secondary that really needed some improvement after a disappointing 2005 season. There is no reason to think Allen won't help the defense, but it's reasonable to ask, when is that going to happen?

From this vantage point, the answer unfortunately is that it will take a little bit longer. We certainly don't expect Allen to have much of an impact on the season opener against Pittsburgh, and it actually wouldn't surprise us if he wound up being inactive Thursday night.

Anyone who has watched Allen in the preseason can see there's still a learning process that Allen needs to go through, and Nick Saban acknowledged as much on Tuesday.

"I just think that he's going to need to continue to get reps and develop a comforting confidence that he knows what to do, how to do it and understand why it's important to do it that way so that he can go out there and play fast and do the things that he feels confident that he can do," Saban said. "I also feel like we need to develop more roles for him, which he's very capable of doing.

"We haven't been able to really start and build on that because with the young guys, I like to teach them one thing. When they kind of get that, then bite off a little more and let them learn something else. He's the kind of guy that would be a really good guy to be able move around on defense, play what we call ‘Star Money, Blitz' – do a lot of stuff with. But we have not been able to get that development to this point. It's going to be a work in progress, and we'll just build on it through the season."

Saban went on to point to fellow safety Yeremiah Bell getting more and more comfortable with the defense last season and making a lot of plays down the stretch.

For now, though, Allen isn't near that point.

The good news is the Dolphins look much better in the secondary, with or without Allen, thanks to the work of safeties Renaldo Hill and Travares Tillman, as well as cornerbacks Will Allen and Andre Goodman.

It is Tillman who will start at strong safety against Pittsburgh and we would expect Bell to also get a lot of playing time.

As for Allen, who knows? The best guess is he will dress, but play almost exclusively on special teams.

Lest anyone think that it's a big deal, it's not. The Dolphins drafted Allen to be a difference-maker over the long term, and that's what really matters.


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