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The Curious Case of Dolphins Cornerback Will Allen

In the 2001 NFL Draft, the New York Giantsselected Syracuse cornerback Will Allen with the 22nd overall pick.  He played five years with the Giants, establishing himself as a cornerback constantly in the right position, but who struggled to make interceptions.  The Giants decided, following the 2005 season, to go in a different direction, signing former Miami cornerback Sam Madison.

The Dolphins then signed Allen to a four year deal, paying him $12 million through the 2009 season.  Continuing the development he initiated with the Giants, Allen became one of the premier cover corners in the league, but constantly struggled to make the interception.

Before the 2009 season, Allen and Miami agreed to a two-year contract extension, ensuring he remained a Dolphin through 2011.

And then it all came crashing down.  During the Dolphins' Week 6 game against the New Orleans Saints, Allen tore his ACL.  He was placed on injured reserve and missed the remainder of the season - giving way to the duo of rookie cornerbacks Sean Smithand Vontae Davis.

Things were starting to look up for Allen at the start of the 2010 season.  Projected to serve as the team's nickle corner, it looked like Allen would make it back from the devastating knee injury of the previous season.  But, just days before the start of the season, Allen was once again placed on injured reserve, surprising everyone, including Allen.

 A week ago, Miami Dolphinscornerback Will Allen was flying high.  He was scheduled to make his first appearance in a football game in two years.  His torn ACL finally seemed to allow him to get on the field.  It was big news for the Dolphins, and everyone, including Head Coach Tony Sparano, was excited to have Allen coming back.  Then, just before game time, Allen was scrubbed, and watched the game from the sideline.

Reportedly, Allen was held out due to a sore hamstring and not his knee.

But either way, Allen cannot fight to keep his spot on the Dolphins roster, let alone the nickle corner job he is again expected to take, if he cannot get on the field. "You can't show a coach you can do it from the training room," Allen said this week, expressing his frustration at his continuing health issues. "I've been around this league long enough to know what these games mean. No matter what you do throughout this league, you always have to show the coaches you still can play -whether it's a young guy or old guy.''

Sparano agrees with Allen's observation.  "Yeah," said during his media availability on Wednesday, "I mean, I have to see him. Obviously that's important because like any other playery, Larry [Johnson], any other of these guys that haven't played for a longer period of time, and I tell them, all the time that it's a 'show me' game.  At some point, I have to see it."

Meanwhile, second year cornerback Nolan Carrollis making his case to claim the nickle cornerback position.  "You know, Nolan is an interesting guy," Coach Sparano said," because he falls into the line, at least for me - I wouldn't call him a ball hawk - but he's made some plays on the football.  He's had some pass break ups. The other thing with Nolan is, right now, as like the third corner today, he has to be able to do things on special teams that I need hom to do at the game, because Sean [Smith] and Vontae [Davis] really are one team guys right now.

"Nolan is a four team guy," Sparano continue about Carroll, "and we're counting on him to be able to do that, too.  I would like to see Nolan in the course of a ball game, being able to play some plays at corner for us, particularly when we get into like nickel stuff, dime stuff, get him on the field there. He has a roll, and then all of a sudden, he plays 20 something plays on special teams, and now maybe you got a 40 play guy at the game, and that's helpful."

Continuing his discourse about Allen's situation, Sparano was quoted as saying, "I got to see it on the practice field; I got to see it in the game.  It took me two days out here with [linebacker Jason Taylor] to figure out once he got here in pads it took me two days to figure out he’s still got it.  So now I can control his practice easy.  You know JT didn’t work yesterday and I can go to JT and say you’re down today. I kind of know what this guy needs to get ready to play.  He knows what he needs to get ready to play. 

"In Will’s case particularly, and Will wouldn’t be upset with me for saying this, is just I need to see it and more importantly Will needs to see it.  He needs to know that he can go into the game and he can do this at the rate that Will was able to do.  I give Will, I give him a lot of benefit of the doubts if you will because he’s a smart player, really smart player, probably the smartest guy I have back there and I’ve seen him do it a couple years back.  But not having him last year and really limited a little bit prior to that…that has been a long period of time that passes.  We just need to see these guys do it at a high level.  He’s had a couple good days out here right now in a row so I’m hoping to be able to get him to the game and be able to put him in those positions."

As Coach Sparano concluded in his statement, the expectation is we will see Allen on the field Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Allen has a maximum of two games to show the coaches that he really is ready to play. Well, unless he is curiously held out of another game.