Tony Pauline tweets that the Vikings will meet on Wednesday with South Carolina defensive back Antonio Allen. Allen measures in at 6-1 1/2, 210 pounds. He ran a 4.60 40 at the combine and posted a 34-inch vertical. Pro Football Weekly said of Allen:
A lean, athletically built college “spur,” Allen was active and productive as a senior. Does not possess starter-caliber smarts and instincts, but comes from a program with a recent history of producing NFL DBs. Athleticism is an asset as a backup/special-teamer.
A spur for those not up on their football geek lingo is a hybrid safety/linebacker. The spur position is important to the defensive scheme employed by South Carolina among others. In this scheme, instead of three traditional linebackers, you line up with two linebackers and five defensive backs as in a nickel. However, the fifth DB is not a traditional small nickelback but rather an oversized “roving” safety who is employed in run support and underneath coverage. The underneath coverage part is highly pertinent to this conversation and points to why the Vikings might be interested in Antonio Allen. Leslie Frazier spoke about the hybrid safety/linebacker idea at the Senior Bowl:
Most teams look for a hybrid type safety, not just a guy who can play an eight-man front and be in the box as a tackling safety. But he must have the ability to go out and matchup on a tight end like the Jimmy Grahams of the NFL. But he also must have the ability to matchup on some of the faster halfbacks that come out of the backfield as well.
The whole idea behind the hybrid safety then is to match up better against the big, fast tight ends that are becoming more popular across the NFL without losing the ability to make stops in run support. Obviously Frazier is intrigued by the idea of adding such a player to his defense. It would seem the Vikings’ defensive scheme is in for some tweaking. Part of that also could be greater use of the 3-3-5 alignment they played with last season as a way of getting Everson Griffen on the field. The whole idea here is positional flexibility. DBs who can tackle and defensive linemen who can drop into coverage. Viking fans should probably get used to the word “hybrid” because I think we’ll be hearing it a lot in the months to come.