A year after the Falcons cut Ricardo Allen and relegated him to the practice squad, the young defensive back remade himself and became Atlanta's starting free safety. The former CB excelled as the vocal leader of Dan Quinn's secondary—leading the team in interceptions (three), dedicating himself to film study and playing with a fearless mindset.
Allen's improvements received him some well-deserve praise this month, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller named him the NFL's 17th-best free safety.
"After not seeing the field at all during his rookie campaign in 2014, the former fifth-rounder out of Purdue earned a starting role in 2015 and made the most of it," Miller wrote. "Ricardo Allen showed great range and athleticism in coverage, and only his understandable lack of experience when it came to reading routes and lack of full confidence to jump on the ball held him back."
Miller also noted that, while Allen faced some challenges in the tackling department, he got better in that regard as 2015 progressed: Just three of Allen's 11 missed tackles came in his last 11 appearances. In those nearly three months of games, he locked up a starting job, earned a new contract for 2016 and evolved into someone who can be trusted as the last man of defense.