Nate Allen has the measurables— people tend to forget he has a low '40 time of 4.40 and a high '40 time of 4.59… that's pretty impressive speed for a safety.
I guess the biggest complaint in the past about Allen was he didn't know exactly where that speed should be on the football field at the most opportune time in a game.
Getting lost in a defensive scheme?— it happens.
Nate Allen, S, 6-1, 210, 4th year out of South Florida, drafted in the 2nd round by Philly in 2010… fully recovered from nagging leg and knee injuries, Allen is ready to make a statement with his play in 2013…
Nate the Skate was running with the first-team defense ahead of offseason acquisition Kenny Phillips earlier this week. "It's a fresh start. Definitely I'm excited," said Allen, who ranked 84th of 88 safeties last season according to Pro Football Focus. "I get a chance to show them what I can do and just go out there and do it."
Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis made a statement by placing Allen with the starting defense this week, even if it is four months before the start of the season. It shows that the Eagles' new regime saw enough from Allen on tape to still have confidence he can help the team. Now it's up to Allen to show them he deserves the confidence.
Allen sees this new Eagles defense as a much better fit for his skills.
"You really don't have a lot of run responsibility," Allen said. "I mean, you do, but you're not expected to be in a certain gap on a play. You're more of a pass guy. You're basically a pass guy."
That plays right into Allen's strengths. He's not known as a physical safety or ferocious tackler. It was his ball-tracking skills that made him a second-round pick in 2010. Allen had nine interceptions and three touchdowns at South Florida. He had four interceptions in his first 16 starts with the Eagles. He has one in his past 22 starts.
As Jordan Raanan of NJ.com rightly observes: "It's no secret the Eagles' defensive backs weren't thrilled with the systems under Castillo and Bowles. Almost to a man, they griped about being spread too thin. Davis' defense is a welcome change for Allen and Kurt Coleman, who will be competing with the newly-signed Phillips and Patrick Chung for starting spots."
It's been clear from the moment the Eagles went and signed two safeties that Allen will still have an opportunity to compete. Kelly called him after signing Phillips and Chung this offseason to deliver that message. The new head coach made it clear the signings did not mean Allen wasn't part of the Eagles' future. It just meant there would be more competition, and he would have to prove himself.
Allen was far from surprised after his struggles last season, when he was benched the final few weeks for Colt Anderson. From start to finish, personal life and team, it was a tough year all around.
But the worst part for Allen was being labeled a loser for the first time in his life.
"It was how it felt to have a losing streak like that, so that I never want to feel like that again," Allen said. "It was rough. Nobody wants to feel like that. It was a bad feeling. You learn from it but you don't reflect on it too long. What's in the past is in the past. I've moved on."
The fact that the Eagles' losing streak serves as offseason fuel rather than his own personal struggles speaks volumes about Allen's character. He's a team-first guy. He never made excuses. And now he's being rewarded with a vote of confidence from the new coaches, who have him working with the starters.
"Over the course of time with 10 OTAs and three mini-camps, by the time we get to June we've got a pretty good number of snaps where we can start to evaluate and start to slot some guys and see where we are as we move into preseason camps," Kelly said.
As Raanan astutely observed, "Where they were heading into offseason camps still means something, especially to a player in Allen's unstable position. It means he's being given a fresh start, a clean slate and an opportunity to prove he was worth being a second-round pick all over again."
I for one never gave up on Nate the Skate. I saw the measurables…and I appreciated the intangibles as I watched him battle back from injuries.
I know a lot of you fine members of the Bored are way down on Nate Allen. I would simply ask you for an open mind on his current and future development… I think he's a competitor and somewhat of a late bloomer at this level. Remember Rod Woodson? Nate Allen reminds me a lot of Woodson, who didn't exactly tear it up coming out of Purdue in 1987. But by 1993, he was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.
Compare Allen's measurables and character with Woodson's—so alike. Their development timelines and early injuries are similar, too. A lot of Steelers fans were ready to write off Woodson early on. But sometimes we find making a great safety in the NFL takes a slow-cook grill.