Despite a career year, Eagles DT Beau Allen enters training camp with his back against the wall

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2016 was a big year for one Eagles Defensive tackle…and his name isn’t the one on the tip of your tongue. Beau Allen, a seventh round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, would be called upon regularly throughout the 2016 campaign…giving him a perfect opportunity to shine and prove his worth. But just months later, his career outlook has taken a slightly different turn.

Allen would play in 40% of defensive snaps last year, setting career highs in tackles (29), and also registering 0.5 sacks and his first career fumble recovery. Not only that, but the former Wisconsin standout played a major role in Dave Fipp’s prestigious special teams unit, being present on 32% of all special teams snaps. In fact, his contributions even bled into Doug Pederson’s offense, as Allen subbed in as a fullback several times throughout the year.

With four snaps on Offense during the season opener against the Browns, Allen was able to force an opening for Ryan Mathews to surge into the endzone for a touchdown. It was safe to say that 2016 may have been a sign of things to come. The future seemed bright for Allen, who got his first real taste of regular defensive action just one year prior to 2016. In a new 4-3 scheme, things were looking up…and with depth minimal after the end of the season,  it seemed as if Allen was becoming a lock to secure a regular rotational role on the Defense. So much so, that negotiations reportedly opened between the Eagles and Allen surrounding a contract extension. When asked about Beau Allen at the NFL Combine, Howie Roseman spoke glowingly of the 6’3, 327 lbs defensive tackle.

“We’re excited about Beau. Both in his ability to be powerful in the run game and also his athleticism to work the edges. He has pass rush moves and with an increased opportunity, we think he will be an even better player for our team.”

But then they hit an unexpected roadblock.

Just over a month after the negotiations reportedly opened, Allen suffered a pectoral injury while working out. An injury that would force him out of OTA’s and Mandatory Minicamp, and one that would keep him sidelined until Training Camp. Allen is now entering a contract year…and the talks of an extension have been dampened.

In his absence, the competition for limited defensive tackle roles began to heat up. The team signed Justin Hamilton to add to DT depth, a move which in itself may pose a threat to Allen given his missed time. The 6’2, 315 pound lineman went undrafted out of Louisiana Lafayette in 2015, and has since spent time with the Packers, the Bills and most recently, the Seattle Seahawks. Playing in 51 games for the Ragin’ Cajuns, Hamilton amassed 102 tackles and 14 sacks during his collegiate career. He was also named First Team All-Sun Belt Conference. In 2014, he had 39 quarterback hurries, which was the most for any 3-4 DE.

 

Previous preseason flashes might not be enough to force Allen out of the picture, but it certainly places Hamilton inside of it…and with a crucial and physical Training Camp up ahead that will bring live tackling to the table, the pressure is well and truly on.

The Eagles also signed Gabe Wright, who has had previous NFL experience himself having bounced around practice squads, and UDFA Winston Craig. The two only add fuel to a growing fire and could pose as a serious threat to the job security of Beau Allen…but then of course, there’s biggest name to keep an eye on, Elijah Qualls.

A former teammate of Sidney Jones, Qualls stands at 6’1 and weighs 313 lbs. Surprisingly, despite his impressive size, Qualls was used all across the Washington front four in 2016. A natural 3-technique, Qualls is beyond explosive, amassing 38 tackles, 3 sacks and 5 TFL in 2016.

Due to a policy that required Qualls to graduate before heading to Philadelphia, the rookie missed valuable time during OTA’s, making Training Camp all the more important. But this thick framed prospect may actually have a more exciting camp than many, as Jim Schwartz figures out how to get the most from his new toy.

Qualls is very much in the same boat as Allen, but the problem now for the Eagles is that there’s only so many snaps to go around. Last year, the Eagles carried four defensive tackles on the roster. With Cox and Jernigan entrenched as the starters, one has to wonder just how much is at stake for Beau Allen and even Destiny Vaeao. The Birds have a flurry of former late-round draft picks,  and undrafted free agents all vying for two spots behind the starters, there is bound to be a surprise or two.

After a career year, it’s strange how just a few short months can completely change the outlook of a career. Training Camp will be absolutely crucial for Allen…but it’s still unknown just how active he will be.

Defensive Tackle may be one of the most overlooked positions on the roster when people look for Training Camp battles, just because of the solidified starters. But beneath the surface, there is still everything to fight for…and with this being Beau Allen’s last contracted year with the Eagles, this really is everything.

 

Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

 

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