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No reason not to dream


Dante Hall gave them all a taste of glory. David Allen says, why not me?

"We both went to Europe. We've got a lot in common. Our paths have gone similar ways," Allen says in comparing himself to the Chiefs' star kick and punt-returner.

Yeah, they do have a lot in common. Hall was NFL Europe's leading return man in 2001, which catapulted Hall's NFL career. Allen starred in NFL Europe in 2003, and that led to his emergence as one of the NFL's top return men last fall, when Allen had six punt returns of 20 yards or longer. Hall led the league with nine.

"He doesn't have Hall's speed. That's the difference," Jaguars special teams coach Pete Rodriguez said of Allen. "David has great quickness, he just doesn't have that 4.4 speed."

But Allen has "4.4" dreams. He dreams of returning to the touchdown ways of his college career at Kansas State, where Allen was a record-setting return man who returned seven punts for touchdowns. He was Hall before Hall was Hall.

"Everybody needs a great return guy. If you have a guy who's a threat every time he touches the ball, that makes your team that much better," Allen said.

His is a dicey profession. They come and they go, and a lot of times they aren't even given a chance to emerge. Allen is the perfect example. It wasn't until Jermaine Lewis suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season that Allen was re-signed by the Jaguars after having been released in final cuts.

So, what if Lewis hadn't been injured? What would the Jaguars have missed?

Well, Allen finished the season tied for third place in the AFC with Antwaan Randle El of Pittsburgh, each with a 12.0-yard punt-return average. Allen had a long return of 52 yards and his late-game punt return was the catalyst to the Jaguars' upset win over Indianapolis.

Allen improved as the season went on and by season's end he had established himself as a player for the Jaguars' future. He's no longer just a guy. He's a player with big-play potential on returns and a reserve running back who has distinct pass-catching skills.

All of that would've been a "4.4" dream last summer, especially after Allen suffered a broken thumb in the first week of training camp. Broken thumbs aren't the thing of which return men desperate to make a final roster are made.

"I couldn't let that stop me. If I hadn't done the things I did in training camp, I wouldn't have been brought back," Allen said.

And the Jaguars would be looking for a return man this spring, as Lewis continues to rehab from ACL surgery.

"I'm looking to have a better year this year. I feel like I did a fairly decent job on returns and got a little bit involved on offense. Hopefully, I'll be a little more involved this year; a role player," Allen said.

"He has a great work ethic. I was impressed watching him on tape; how aggressive he was. He ran hard; north and south runner," Rodriguez said.

"I expect him to have a heckuva year. He's the kind of guy I like. He's not as big or strong as Brian Mitchell, but he runs the same way," Rodriguez added, comparing Allen to one of the great return artists in NFL history.

Allen has been one of the most impressive players in spring drills. He has reliable hands and quick feet, and he's started to impress the offensive coaches with what he might do in a specialty role.

Why not dream?

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