PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s taken a few years, but Nate Allen feels comfortable. The Eagles’ fifth-year strong safety can relax, read and react to a play in Billy Davis’ scheme far better than the guessing and doubting he did two years ago in defensive line coach Jim Washburn’s “wide nine” system.
Allen was battling two-year safety Earl Wolff for the starting job and it appears to be Allen’s spot.
“I would put Nate in the same category as [LB] Mychal Kendricks and some of the other guys,” Davis said. “Now that we are in year two in a scheme and the words haven’t changed on them, we did not change the scheme on them, the structure is in place, I think they’re big concept learners. With some people when you learn the concept and understand the concept, now the details become easier. I think we’ve seen Nate grow because his understanding is now letting him calm his mind to slow down and he’s seeing more because he understands his landmarks.
“He understands where his eyes need to be placed. He understands the two‑gap system of not having a safety be a primary run defender. All those things are growing and you see Nate play better and better.”
In 2013 under Davis for the first time, Allen had a career-best 82 tackles in 2013, with one forced fumble and an interception.
As Davis said, everything is in what Allen sees—and the field has become far more expansive under Davis, rather the groping around the field than he did under Washburn.
“I feel good and it’s been a successful training camp and I’m comfortable with the defense, this scheme does fit me,” Allen said. “I was lost sometimes [under Washburn]. Coach Davis puts us in position to be a success and I think I’m getting closer to where I want to be, but I still have to keep working on becoming the player where I want to be.
“Things have slowed down and I think that comes from a lot of experience and having that year [under Davis] in this system. I react now instead of making mistakes and learning from them. I’m comfortable within the scheme and where to go, and I know where to go. I want to help the team win, that’s the main thing. I don’t think of Pro Bowls or anything, but it’s a thought. You want to always be the best at what you do. That comes with everything. I am more comfortable. You’re not necessarily thinking—you’re just playing football.”
Allen stomached the wide nine. He didn’t say anything about it because he couldn’t, opting to try and play within the scheme rather than complain about feeling like a square peg being pushed into a round hole.
“I had to make the best of it, and it was a tough thing,” Allen said. “I’m not going to bash the wide nine. Some people had success at it. I’m not anywhere close to where I want to be, and that’s what I want to focus on. I’m reacting to everything, seeing things quicker and you’re just going out and making plays reacting to everything. You can always improve on everything.”
One of the advantages in how Davis uses him, Allen feels, is that he’s became a “pass first” guy. He says he fits where needed in the run game. Before last season, Allen said that he never played in a 3-4 scheme and didn’t know what to expect. Allen is on a one-year deal and says he won’t let that be a distraction, making it a priority to prove he belongs.