On the defensive side of the ball, safety is one of the toughest positions to learn. Rookies often struggle in their first year to gain a firm grasp of the playbook and make the right reads. None of that seems to be fazing Nate Allen.
The Eagles second round draft pick stepped onto the practice field at Lehigh University and immediately began drawing rave reviews. “He’s made a lot of plays out here. He’s had a lot of interceptions and made a lot of break-ups,” said head coach Andy Reid.
So what’s allowed Allen to come in and immediately play at a high level? For starters, his mental prowess is impressing fellow safety Quintin Mikell. “I’ve never seen a safety come in and pick it up as quickly as he did. Not myself, nobody, and I consider myself to not be a dummy,” said Mikell. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Obviously we haven’t hit the field yet, but I have a good feeling about him and what he can do.”
In addition to picking up the playbook in a hurry, Allen possesses the athletic ability to make big plays. “If you watch Nate move, he really is quite smooth for a safety that is 210 pounds,” said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
The brains, brawn and quickness come together to allow Allen to do what most rookies look to others to do – make his teammates job less difficult. “Having Nate out there, man that guy, he’s made my life so much easier, because he’s picking up everything, he’s making plays on the ball, he’s tackling and all that stuff,” said Mikell.
Perhaps most impressive is the youngster’s ability to take the compliments in stride and maintain his calm demeanor on and off the field. Allen says he’s still got a ways to go, “I mean, I’m never really satisfied. There’s always more you can do and learn more and just got to get ready for the season.”
Allen believes his biggest mistakes so far have been mental ones with assignments and pre-snap alignments, but says those are all easily fixable. Ask anyone other than Allen, and they’ll tell you he’s already fixed them. “He’s very mature for a guy that’s in his rookie season, and playing that position, the quarterback of the defense, or one of the quarterbacks of the defense, he’s really handled himself quite well to this point,” said McDermott.
On Friday everyone will get their first glimpse of the rookie in a game situation and begin to find out if Allen’s impressive practice performances translate on gameday. “He needs to get into the preseason games here, finish up the practices, and then get into the preseason games and let’s let him get against a new opponent here and a new scheme. We’ll just see, we’ll see how he does,” said Reid.
Allen will definitely be one of the most watched players on the starting unit, at least as long as they remain in the game. At this point, it’s fair to say that Allen’s ability to adapt quickly to the professional level will be one of the biggest factors in determining the success of the Eagles defense. If you believe the hype from teammates and coaches, Nate Allen could do more than adapt this year. He could excel.
Training Camp and Preseason Coverage
ITI’s Ryan Messick will be back at Lehigh University tomorrow, when the Eagles have a mock game scheduled for 10:30 A.M. He’ll also be reporting from Lincoln Financial Field as the Eagles take on the Jaguars Friday night to open their preseason schedule.