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nate allen cropped2 Can Allen Fill The Void Left By Dawkins?

Nate Allen intercepts a pass against Cincinnati

Poor Nate Allen. The rookie safety hasn’t played a down yet and he’s walking into a cauldron of heat courtesy of two former Eagles. Let’s hope Allen is more than just the answer to a trivia question 10 years from now as the player the Eagles chose for Donovan McNabb. The Eagles didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary when they took the 6 1/2 foot, 207-pound free safety out of South Florida with their first pick in the second round, the selection they received from the Washington Redskins in exchange for McNabb.

Again, they addressed a need with the 37th overall pick. But did they really?

Let’s face it, the Eagles made a grave mistake by letting Brian Dawkins leave last year, thinking they had someone to replace him in either Sean Jones and Macho Harris. Neither, we can all agree, worked out, did they now?

Here comes Allen, who some list as tall as 6-2, some at 6-1, but he’s probably more like 6 1/2 feet tall. He’s supposed to be a reliable tackler with a great motor, who’s able to close fast on the ball and excels in zone coverage. But there is one glaring phrase that’s enough for any Eagles’ fan to continue whining more about the departure of No. 20: Allen isn’t supposed to be a heavy hitter who can cause fumbles. Doesn’t the Eagles’ secondary already have a few weak hitters who are ball hawks?

The Eagles choose Allen over the larger, more physical Taylor Mays, who was still on the board at 37 and is listed at 6-3, 230.

Allen wasn’t even that certain he’d be an Eagle.

“I really had no idea, but I was excited wherever I was taken and I’m just so excited right now to be an Eagle,” Allen said. “I couldn’t be more excited. I’m at a loss of words I’m so excited. I’m so thankful they had the faith in me and they’re just giving me the opportunity to make their franchise better.”

Let’s hope the “The Golden Child,” as some of Allen’s South Florida teammates referred to him as, doesn’t turn out to be “The Golden Mistake” the Birds made in exchange for McNabb.

One thing is certain, Allen may be faced with more pressure than the Eagles’ first-round pick, Brandon Graham, for two reasons: One, he was the one selected in the historic McNabb trade; secondly, he’s the one who will be expected to fill the void at free safety left by the hard-hitting Dawkins, one of the most beloved sports figures who ever played in Philadelphia, not just for his omnipresent tenacity on the field but for the gracious way he carried himself off it.

Asked if he felt any pressure about being taken with the McNabb pick, Allen responded, ““Not really. Just being in the NFL Draft is an honor to me, just being considered with the whole Donovan McNabb thing. I’m just so thrilled and excited and I’m ready to get up there and start working hard.”

There is one other thing that stands out in Allen’s report. He’s supposed to possess strong leadership qualities, an area in which the Eagles have been sorely lacking since Dawkins was signed by Denver.

Allen does possess some Dawkins-like tendencies, with an ability to attack the line of scrimmage, track down running backs from behind, with a nice mixture of intelligence and toughness.

What made Allen attractive was his versatility to play free or strong safety at South Florida.

“We pretty much were interchangeable, so I’m pretty comfortable at strong or free,”Allen said. “I definitely want to come in and play right away, but wherever they need me.  Wherever I’m needed, special teams, anywhere, nickel, wherever I’m needed to help them win I’m there.”

It sounds a little like B-Dawk. We’ll take anything that comes close.

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