Eagles had inside scoop on Allen's value

Eagles' draft pick Nate Allen takes questions from the press. (Ron Tarver/Staff Photographer)

As one of a handful of Eagles safeties to play alongside Brian Dawkins, J.R. Reed knows firsthand what Nate Allen is stepping into.

He also, coincidentally enough, knows the new Eagles safety firsthand.

Reed, a graduate assistant coach, helped tutor Allen last season at South Florida. The former Eagle also played under Sean McDermott when the defensive coordinator was the Eagles' secondary coach, which may have had a smidgen to do with the team's taking Allen in the second round Friday night.

Because of Reed, McDermott had the inside scoop on Allen and he didn't hesitate to use it.

"Because I played in the Eagles' system, [McDermott] wanted to know if Nate would be able to pick up the scheme," Reed said by telephone Saturday. "But he was just as interested in knowing if Nate was a good kid and if he would do all the necessary things."

Allen was at the NovaCare Complex Saturday, a day after the Eagles used their second overall pick on the 22-year old. He might not have the open free-safety job yet - the one formerly occupied by Dawkins - but there will be immediate pressure to fill a position that stymied the Eagles last season.

"Especially when I got in and was looking a little bit at the playbook, just a small bit of it, and I realized that it finally came to me," Allen said. "It's my job now. I have to get going and learn as much as I can and just get ready for camp next week."

Allen will face plenty of competition. Macho Harris is the incumbent, having started as a rookie for much of last season. But he failed to put his stamp on the spot and will join Quintin Demps and free agent acquisition Marlin Jackson as those looking to unseat the new kid in town.

Demps was once that shiny new toy, the guy expected to eventually replace Dawkins. Reed and other safeties recently drafted by the Eagles have often had to bear comparisons to the seven-time Pro Bowler. Allen is similar in size to Dawkins - they're both 6-foot and around 210 pounds - and therefore must be his clone.

"I don't think it's fair to compare him to Dawk," Reed said. "It seems every time a safety comes to Philadelphia, everybody wants to compare him to Brian Dawkins. Everyone is different in their own way, and Nate certainly has his own way of playing."

Of course, being a safety, Allen followed Dawkins' career.

"Oh yeah, he's Brian Dawkins," Allen said. "You don't need to say much. They said something about it, and it's an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, too."

Allen, selected with the 37th overall pick, is the highest drafted safety of the Andy Reid era. The Eagles' coach expended a late second-round pick on Michael Lewis in 2002. Since then, mid-round selections such as Sean Considine, Reed, and Demps, thus far, haven't panned out.

Last year, the Eagles acquired free agent Sean Jones to vie for the job with Demps. Aside from not being the cover safety the Eagles envisioned, Jones got behind early because, he said, of the defense's complexities.

Will Allen be able to grasp McDermott's scheme and start right away?

"He's definitely smart enough," Reed said. "I tried to instill in him everything that I learned from Sean McDermott. It's a complex defensive system, but he'll definitely be able to understand it and play in it."

Allen doesn't come without on-field questions. Because he injured his quadriceps in February, he did not run a 40-yard dash at the Indianapolis combine or at his pro day in March.

"My big goal was to just make it to a camp; make it to the rookie camp," Allen said." I didn't want to pull it and then set myself back even more."

There are also concerns that his size could affect his being a consistent tackler.

"Brian Dawkins wasn't the biggest guy," Reed said.

And there's that comparison again. Even if Allen doesn't become the player Dawkins was, Reed said he'd at least give the effort.

"Eagles fans are going to love him," Reed said. "He's everything the city of Philadelphia would want in a safety."


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.