This is a multiple part series in which I will be breaking down Vikings position battles and highlighting what players need to do to win their respective starting position.
Although Vikings fans might not know too much about the 2009 third-round rookie cornerback from Georgia named Asher Allen, they do not have to look far to see the type of football he plays.
If you look at Allen, he is a short guy who is very athletic and is a great tackler. Sound like anyone familiar? Cornerback Antoine Winfield went to his first Pro Bowl last season after showing that just because he isn't the biggest guy, doesn't mean he can't pack a punch.
Look for the same out of Allen, who will come in this training camp to compete for the team's starting nickel job, along with Charles Gordon, Karl Paymah, and Benny Sapp.
He was one of thirteen finalists for the Thorpe Award in 2008, which is given to the best defensive back in the nation. Also, when looking through his stats, he always seemed to come up with plays in big games against the nation's best teams.
Yes, Allen has the potential to be something special, but now is his toughest challenge yet, his transition into the NFL. Will his size be a negative or will his play rise above that? These are five things Asher Allen needs to do this summer in training camp to win the Vikings' nickel back position.
1. Gel into Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier's Defense and Play Like a Vet
Any rookie who comes into the NFL will tell you the same thing. Adjusting to the pro's is easier said than done. That said, Allen's first task will be learning Leslie Frazier's Tampa Two defensive scheme and not making any big mental errors on the field.
The more a rookie knows what his responsibilities are, the more confidence he has, and that should result in bigger plays.
In camp this summer, look for Allen to get the most out of his abilities, while knowing the defense like the back of his hand. If he has no problem grasping Frazier's concepts, Allen has most of the physical attributes to become a good corner in this league. The only negative characteristic about Allen? His size.
2. Show He Can Outplay His Size
Allen (5'9", 194 lbs.) is basically a younger Antoine Winfield, when talking about size, which definitely isn't a positive when playing the cornerback position.
One of his best abilities is his ability to bring down receivers on his own, but he must realize that he is not playing against the small, speedy receivers in the SEC anymore. Allen must prove that he can bring down the taller and bigger receivers that he is matched up with in the NFL.
Staying on the topic of tall receivers, one of the challenges for Allen will be his play, when he is competing for jump balls. I mentioned in a previous article that fellow corner Charles Gordon might be tested with some bigger receivers this summer. Expect the same for Allen. The coaches might want to get a look at how he plays a guy like Sidney Rice in camp, who is good at jumping up to get balls at the highest point.
3. Observe and Learn from the Starters in Practice
Allen would be wise to look at the players ahead of him on the depth chart, when it is not his turn for reps in practice.
Along with Winfield, starter Cedric Griffin has also been a solid player after being drafted by the Vikings in the second round of the 2006 draft. Of course he struggled out of the gate, but Griffin has shown he has the coverage ability and the skills in run support to be one of the best corners in the league.
So, in individual drills and scrimmage, Allen should keep an eye on these two and watch their technique in coverage as well as tackling. Observation will be key for the young rookie in training camp.
4. Demonstrate His Work Ethic and Passion for the Game
One of Allen's strengths coming out of Georgia was his work ethic and his passion for the game of football, both of which are key for a young player who wants to make a name for himself in this league.
This summer in camp, don't be surprised to see him out on the field getting all the reps he can to better prepare himself for the next practice. From what I have heard, the guy absolutely loves the game and will do whatever it takes to get better.
The best corners on the Vikings are also some of the better prepared players on the field, both mentally and physically. Along with watching what Winfield and Griffin do in practice, Allen also will learn some tips from them in the film room. Trust me, with all the meetings that take place in training camp, he will get his share of help that will mold him into the player he wants to be.
5. Show He Has a Short Memory in the Pro's
Almost as certain as you having to pay taxes, rookies will have their share of struggles in their transition to the NFL.
Another strength of Allen's is his ability to forget a play as soon as the whistle blows. And another certainty is that he will get beat on some plays in practice, which he will have to overcome if he wants to start the season in the nickel spot.
This summer in camp, watch Allen's body language after a play that doesn't go his way. You can expect that he will move on and learn from what he did wrong, key for a young player in competition.
Although he is a young guy who doesn't have terrific size, you can expect Asher Allen to fight every last second to achieve what he wants on the 2009 Minnesota Vikings. With hard work and cornerback education from some of the best in the league, expect him to be a player on the rise in the next few seasons.
Next Article: Five Things Benny Sapp Must Do to Win the Minnesota Vikings' Nickel Job
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