In many ways, the success of the Eagles' safety position in 2012 depends on Nate Allen "making the leap" in his third season in the NFL. After his promising rookie season was cut one game short by a torn patella tendon, Allen returned quickly for last summer's training camp but was admittedly less than 100 percent health-wise. As the 2011 season went on, Allen's play steadily improved, setting him up for what could be a big, healthy, 2012 season.
Plus, as noted by Eagles general manager Howie Roseman earlier this week, after last year's team-organized offseason activities were wiped out because of the work stoppage, this will be Allen's first offseason spent fully with the team.
"He's got all the skills you look for in a safety - incredible athlete; he's a smart kid; he's got really good ball skills; he can tackle; he can blitz," said Roseman. "He's just got to put it all together."
For his part, Allen also expects this offseason to play a vital part in his on-field performance. Not only can Allen take advantage physically of the organized workouts, but he and his defensive teammates now have plenty of time to familiarize themselves with Juan Castillo's defense, a luxury that was not afforded last year.
"It's nice being with the team. Last offseason was kind of crazy and hectic because everybody was on their own, but it's good to get back with the guys," said Allen. "As far as last season goes, everybody was kind of on their own working out. We weren't able to get in the classroom and really learn the defense as much as we wanted to, so now we're able to do that."
With Allen penciled in at one of the starting safety spots, the question becomes whether Kurt Coleman or Jaiquawn Jarrett ends up as his Week 1 partner. In Coleman, the Eagles know they have a classic, steady overachiever.
"He's played at a high level every time everyone doubts him because of his size," said Roseman. "He's been productive every time he's played for us. He's a smart guy. He can play either spot. He's been effective on special teams. He's just a good player."
Jarrett, meanwhile, was a second-round pick one year after Allen was given the same distinction.
"He's coming along real good," said Allen of Jarrett. "He's learning and just getting better."
It's a trio of safeties in whom the Eagles have plenty of confidence. Much of the reason for that comfort level, according to Roseman, has to do with the expectations for the third-year safety out of South Florida. Allen, too, believes he, Coleman and Jarrett are poised to get the job done.
"We have a lot of confidence," Allen said, "We're exciting to get it going."
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