Videos by OutKick
The 55-yard bomb Devon Allen caught for a touchdown during Sunday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns was eye-popping in that it showed the profound difference between Olympic speed and NFL speed as he easily pulled away from a couple of defensive backs.
But that lightning strike of a moment comes with questions and a request. Because Allen, who has made his reputation about being really fast, needs things to slow down for him on the football field.
And he needs the Eagles to show him patience and give him, well, more time to develop.
That leaves the Eagles’ brass with some tough decisions.
But let’s start with what’s apparent to anyone with eyes: Devon Allen is fast. World Class fast.
Allen is a two-time United States Olympian, reaching the finals in both the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro and in the 2020 Tokyo Games. His 110 meter hurdles best time of 12.84 seconds, set in 2022, ranks as the third-fastest time in history — as in history of the planet.
Allen is one of only 13 American hurdlers to break the 13 second mark in the 110 and he’s done it twice.
Did I mention Allen also plays football?
He was a four-star recruit in high school and went to Oregon on a football scholarship before he blew out his knee three games into the 2016 season. He turned his focus to track when he returned from the injury.
Anyway, the Eagles saw Allen at the Oregon Pro Day last spring and signed him as an undrafted free agent because he could catch the ball well enough but that elite speed was simply too tempting to ignore.
And, frankly, that’s where this nice tale seemed destined to end because all that lightning in Allen’s legs had been bottled during the team’s current training camp. He was fast but it didn’t show up on the field very often, plus there’s more to playing wide receiver than running fast.
And then Sunday came. And this happened:
And now the player mired on fourth-team (there’s no fifth-team, folks) who was headed toward getting cut in the next couple of weeks gave everyone something to think about.
More on that in 12.84 seconds. First the celebration.
The Olympic hurdler celebrated his first NFL touchdown by simulating part of a 100-meter hurdles race.
So the electric moment made everyone notice.
Now comes the hard part.
The Eagles have more polished receivers than Allen playing ahead of him. Allen is a developmental trying to catch on after taking six years off from the sport and he’s trying to do with a playoff-caliber team with plenty of receiver talent.
“It’s hard to do what Allen’s done,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni told reporters. “He hasn’t played football in a while, and he’s getting into it. He’s getting into the groove right here.”
No one is expecting Allen to be a starter. And unless he proves himself an amazing special teams player, he’d likely not even be active on games days.
But that all assumes he’d make the team. And that’s not a good assumption because the hurdler has significant obstacles in his way.
“There’s a lot for me to learn, a lot for me to do in order to make a football team but I’m excited for the opportunity,” Allen said.
“Also, I’m just taking advantage of being out there and enjoying it because this is a game that I love and something I missed for six years. I’m glad to be back.”
Unless Allen continues to show significant improvement in practices, including dual practices next week against the Miami Dolphins, he’s fighting for a practice squad spot at best.
But there are intangibles to consider: Allen’s got a skill no one can teach and the worst thing that can happen for Philly is to give up on him too quickly and he catches on with another team more willing to work with him — a possibility that could haunt if Allen turns into a consistent threat.
Allen realizes the odds are against him.
“This is a hard team to make,” he said. “I’m doing my best to progress. All you can do as an athlete is prepare and give great effort. My teammates are really latching on and helping me out.”
Still, there could be some daylight for Allen. The Eagles do have that reputation for plucking guys out of tryouts and giving them a chance to make the roster. Google Vince Papale.
And Sirianni didn’t exactly shut down talk of Allen sticking around. In fact when Allen celebrated the TD with that hurdler stuff, the coach told him, “Hey, we’ve got to get you a new celebration because you’re a football player now.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero