CB Allen working on flaws

Cornerback Asher Allen found himself on the bench at the start of last season. This year, he knows what went wrong early in 2009, and the playing time he got later in the season provided him with film to review his flaws. With increased competition this year, he's working to gain more confidence from the coaches.

Asher Allen isn't certain where he'll fit into the Vikings defense this year – he's hoping for more opportunities – but he is a more confident cornerback in his second NFL season.

"That's the thing about it. If you don't have the confidence of your teammates and your coaches, you're not going to go out there and play," he said. "I've been trying to do the little things and hopefully the guys out here (think) that when Asher's name is called it's not a hesitant thing, it's a: ‘Yeah, I'm glad he's in there.' So that's what I've been working on."

He didn't always engender that confidence last year, especially at the beginning of the season. He was inactive for the first six games and coaches indicated he needed to focus more on his special teams in order for them to make him active.

Once he earned that trust, he played in every game the rest of the season, playing in almost 20 percent of the defensive snaps and more than 25 percent of the special-teams snaps despite missing those first six games.

That gave him a taste of what it is like on defense in the NFL, and he's spent part of his offseason reviewing his film and finding his strengths and weaknesses. Here is what stuck out:

"Just me always playing physical and playing fast. That's something I've always done, just wanting to make plays and me running to the ball. Just being an athlete allows you to do that, but doing the things that require no effort – it's just running to the ball and just doing what the coaches ask," he said. "(I'm) really, really focusing on my special teams and things like that. That's something that I've been improving and last year one out of 10 (times) was (rated) a 10. It was something to work on and now I'm really busting my butt on special teams."

Apparently he took that message of special teams to heart. Once he got on the field, he was also able to learn from his mistakes.

"You always learn with experience and that was something that I was fortunate to get last year, whether it was on special teams or when Toine (Antoine Winfield) went down and I had a chance to play valuable snaps. When that came up, I had a chance to just really fall down a couple times, but I had a chance just to learn. There's nothing like it, going out there and learning," he said.

"This offseason, I just worked on some things that I knew were a personal problem with me out here and made my game better. That's something that I worked on and I'm continuing to work on. Confidence is something – I've always had that – but when you get more and more reps and you do it more, you start to feel it."

The plays he got last year were a start to his improvement. It gave him an idea what to work on, like anticipating routes, but the organized team activities this spring gave him even more of opportunity to work on his role in the passing game.

He got practice reps at right and left cornerback and nickel back, and he even had one play where he rotated to safety.

This year, he will have to continue to make improvements because the Vikings brought in more talent at cornerback, signing free agent Lito Sheppard and drafting Chris Cook in the second round. Allen says he welcomed the competition.

"I was excited. I know those two guys are really, really good. Obviously Lito has been playing for a long time and Chris coming in, being the athlete that he is, is great because it's something that keeps you on your top game," Allen said. "That's what they've done and I was excited because you know what they can bring to a team, but you also know that only a certain amount can stay so it ups your level as far as preparing. You know you've got to be on your tip-tops, so that helps you. That's good. Every team has it across the country. All 32 teams are packed right now with great guys and it's good because it's healthy competition."

This year, Allen expects to be part of that competition from the start.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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