JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Second-year quarterback Brandon Allen finds himself in prime position to control his own destiny. With final cuts set for Saturday, Allen will have the opportunity to lock up his roster spot with a standout performance against the Atlanta Falcons in the Jaguars' preseason finale Thursday.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday that Allen plays better in games than in practice. Lucky for Allen, his final test will be in a game setting.
Allen will likely carry the load for the majority of the exhibition matchup against the Falcons, as he did in last year's preseason finale as a rookie. The then-NFL novice completed 17-of-26 passes (65.4 completion percentage) for 164 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Atlanta.
Now he is looking to repeat or improve that output to once again force the Jaguars to house three quarterbacks on their active roster.
While Allen has played well in the preseason so far, the Jaguars' roster has a few positional needs that could force the team to stock just two quarterbacks on the depth chart. Allen probably wouldn't make it through waivers unclaimed - which would send him elsewhere - but his best opportunity is probably on the Jaguars' roster.
Allen wasn't allowed to compete for the starting job when the Jaguars opened up a battle between Blake Bortles and Chad Henne for roughly 10 days. He was also shunned relatively early when it came to the backup job.
However, Allen may have a shot at playing if the Jaguars' season goes awry.
In 2018, Bortles is due a $19 million salary, which is only guaranteed for injury. If Bortles were to play poorly this season and put the Jaguars in an insurmountable hole early on, the Jaguars could opt to give the unproven Allen a shot at the starting job. This would allow the Jaguars to safeguard Bortles from potential unnecessary risks.
Henne had his shot to show he could be counted on in a starting role and seemingly failed to live up to those standards. While a minor injury to Bortles would probably lead to Henne playing in relief, it's hard to imagine the veteran serving as the starter for a long stretch of the season.
Those scenarios make Thursday's game even more vital for Allen. A strong performance, similar to his showing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second preseason game, could vault Allen back into discussions involving the backup spot.
Allen has taken advantage of his opportunities when presented with playing time. In the first three preseason games, Allen has completed 16-of-27 passes (59.3 completion percentage) for 251 yards and two passing touchdowns. He has also produced 38 rushing yards on just five carries (7.6 yards per carry).
Along with his preseason numbers, Allen has proven to be a competent leader this offseason.
He met up with undrafted rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole before training camp to practice. Cole put forth a strong training camp partially due to his chemistry with Allen.
The young quarterback hasn't been able to choose the competition he has faced in the preseason. He still has made the most of the situations that he has been given.
Practice performance is important, but Bortles has often struggled in that area as well during his four-year career. Both players are "gamers," as they are most effective when the metaphorical bullets fly.
Allen also offers a similar mobility to Bortles, a trait that led the Jaguars to conclude that the former third overall pick was the best man for the Week 1 starting job.
The Jaguars declined to bring in a fourth quarterback this offseason. After allowing Allen to take up a precious roster spot throughout last season, he will now have the chance to show them that they made the right decision.
He may not be ready to be the true backup at this point, but he could play well enough to force the Jaguars to keep him anyway. Risking him to the waiver wire for a potential AFC South opponent, like the Indianapolis Colts, would be less than ideal.
All Allen needs to do is offer a stellar performance in the space where Marrone thinks he plays best. If he delivers, he should have plenty more practices to improve his stock under Marrone's watch.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
© 2017 WTLV-TV