He showed enough on a daily basis to remain on the Eagles' practice squad for the entire 2022 season. Now wide receiver Devon Allen begins a critical offseason that he hopes will help him take the next step on his path toward contributing on gamedays in the 2023 campaign.
"It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I developed a lot as a player," said Allen, the world track superstar the Eagles saw at Oregon's pre-NFL Draft Pro Day last year and signed to a contract, intent on seeing if his speed in the 110-meter hurdles would translate to the world of football. "It definitely was difficult because I hadn't played in five, six years, but I feel I developed well and learned a lot from the guys in our room. Everyone on the team was cool and I had a great experience. On top of that, in my first year in the NFL, making it to the Super Bowl was just special."
Allen played collegiately at Oregon before suffering severe injuries to both knees and shelving the sport in favor of track and field, where he became a three-time National Champion (2014, 2016, 2018) and two-time Olympian (2016, 2020) in the 110-meter event. He wanted to get back into football and impressed enough at the Oregon Pro Day a year ago to earn a contract from the Eagles and he made a good of it.
He's still here as one of 12 practice squad players signed on Thursday after the season ended. That's saying something. Allen opened eyes in the preseason when he chased down a Reid Sinnett pass and turned it into a diving 55-yard touchdown catch in a game at Cleveland, and Allen also hustled down on kick coverage and made a tackle on special teams to earn a spot on the practice squad for the season. It gave him a chance to develop and learn from the best in the business – A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.
"You have to learn the scheme, the verbiage. It's like learning a new language," he said. "That was probably the most difficult thing, picking up everything to where I don't have to think about it anymore and I can just play free and fast. The football aspect of it felt like it came back naturally. After Training Camp and throughout the season, I kind of felt more comfortable just playing ball, running routes, and getting better at that. I've always been the fast guy and the deep threat, so my biggest thing this year was working on my short game, short routes. What better place to be than with one of the best receivers to run 'ins' and 'slants' as A.J. and then the best receiver in the NFL to run 'curls' and 'digs' and 'stop' routes with DeVonta Smith. That was something I needed to work on a lot and I think I got a lot better."
Allen improved on the details and that is a huge difference between college football and the NFL, and he knows there is more to learn. The Eagles wanted to work with him on the practice squad and he showed up every day and worked hard and proved he was serious about being an NFL player and that he was equipped to be one.
He wants to be a factor in 2023.
"I want to start Training Camp at a better spot than I finished the season," Allen said. "I progressed a lot this year and the goal is to progress a lot through the offseason and expand my role in the offense and on special teams as well."