We caught up with Allen after the last practice of minicamp and asked him about his first two seasons, learning his third defense in three years and his hopes for 2008.
Q. How is the learning of the new defense coming along?
Allen: "I think it's going well. The guys right now, we're learning and trying to bond together and get that chemistry as a unit. I think for the most part guys are picking it up pretty well. A lot of guys are communicating a lot more, feel a lot more comfortable with what's going on, and guys are just flying around for the most part."
How tough is it to have to learn a new defense every year?
Allen: "I must be honest and say it's getting better, actually. It's a player-friendly defense, a defense that gives you the opportunity to let loose and play. And the one thing that the coaches are teaching us, they want to install in us is know what you know, don't go out there second-guessing yourself. Whatever formation they give us, whatever they give us, know that you know and execute what you have."
Q. How much more comfortable are you at this time?
Allen: "It's night and day. I look at myself now and I look at myself last year even during the season. I see myself more confident out there, moving faster because I'm going out there no second-guessing. Once you eliminate second-guessing and thinking too much, you tend to play a whole lot faster."
Allen: Can you pinpoint a time when something just unlocked for you?
Allen: "I just think success doesn't come overnight, it comes in chunks, and it's something the coaches talked about. You just continue to get better, and get better, and get better, and it comes a little bit at a time. I think if I can continue to work at it and go at it the way I'm going at it and continue getting better, it's going to continue to come."
Q. Was second-guessing an issue for you last year?
Allen: "I can only speak for myself, but you hear other guys talking about it as well. A lot of guys second-guess themselves and different formations can be kind of confusing. It kind of slowed us down, some guys. When you don't second-guess yourself and you know what you know, you play a lot faster."
Q. How big was it for your confidence to get those picks late last year?
Allen: "It was big. Anytime you get an interception or make a big play, it's a confidence boost. Going into the season, three interceptions, it was a confidence boost for me. It's something to boost me into this year, something to build going into this year here."
Q. Did you do anything different in your workout this offseason?
Allen: "The workout here during this offseason, it was more intense, it reminded me of a college workout. I guess that's when my performance ... I was at my best in college getting those type of workouts, power clean, squatting, doing those type of things, being more explosive. One thing, competition started in the weight room, guys competing in the weight room, seeing who can do the most on the bench or squat and it's carried over to the field. Compete. And that's something the coaches are doing, we want to compete on every position, compete on every play, and that's what we want to do to make sure we're getting better."
Q. Are you going to go to training camp with the idea it's your starting job to lose?
Allen: "I think I have the mentality that every day in practice I've got to perform like I'm a starter. Of course, I want to be the starter and I won't settle for anything less than being the starter. That's my mentality. I'm going in as if I'm the starter and I've got to perform like I'm a starter."
Q. Do you feel like you have something to prove?
Allen: "There's no doubt. There's so much more that I have to ... you say prove, show what I'm capable of doing. You can do it on the practice field, but it all comes down what you do when the lights come on on Sunday or Monday Night Football."
Q. How would you compare this year's defense to last year's?
Allen: "It's a lot simpler. Any type of movement or anything it was a check. Every defense, maybe one defense maybe had five or six different checks, and this defense here, it's similar to the defense we ran in college. It's a lot simpler than what we had the last two years. I'm looking forward to going ahead with the guys that we have here and just going out and flying to the ball and having a confident unit."
Q. Is there more accountability this year?
Allen: "It's something the coaches are trying to put in in this camp, on and off the field, we're a team, we have to hold each other accountable. I feel like when you hold each other accountable, not just off the field but on the field and guys know they're going to jump on you if you're not doing something right, it just gives that little extra boost that you need to make sure you're getting your job."
Q. How is that different than last year?
Allen: "Anytime you hold each other accountable, it's going to take you to the next level. Not saying we didn't have that all the way, but I believe we were lacking in that area, holding each other accountable. Having guys come in from Dallas and have the coaching staff, everybody from that organization that came in, they're bringing something that they're taught there and it's kind of like a vibe that's spreading through the locker room."