There are a lot of differences between this year's rookie starter at free safety and last year's. Nate Allen was a high second-round draft pick (37th overall) whereas Macho Harris was a fifth-round draft pick in 2009. Allen played safety throughout college while Harris was a cornerback making the transition to a new position. But one of the most important contrasts between the two situations is that Allen became the first-team safety in the spring and had the entire off-season to work with Quintin Mikell.
"That makes a big difference," said Mikell. "Being able to gel and know the guy you're playing next to makes a big difference. I think us being able to go through camps together, rookie camps, mini camps, helped. He knows where I'm at. He knows my voice. I know his voice. We work well together and I think when you think of the partnership, it's almost like the quarterback and the center in how important it is for them to have a good rapport with each other."
Of course, Allen notched an interception in his very first regular season game, picking off Aaron Rodgers by playing a deep centerfield and hauling in an overthrow. It was a right place, right time kind of play, but it wasn't an accident. Allen has studied the defense extensively from the day he arrived and his partnership with Mikell is critical to the success of the defense.
"It's real important because we're working in connection out there and if we're not on the same page, it could be bad," Allen said. "We had that chance all training camp to build that chemistry and I think we have some good chemistry because sometimes we help each other out a lot. I have his back and he has my back.
"We're the last line of defense and if we have a breakdown back there it gets exposed and that's probably going to be a touchdown."
The chemistry between Mikell and Allen is apparent on and off the field.
"You notice them talking in meetings and the rapport that they've built over the last couple months or since the spring," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. "It's big because they are out signal-callers on defense and those two and the middle linebacker get us lined up, set the defense for us and make sure everybody's on the same page."
"If I have any kind of question, Q's the first one I go to," said Allen. "He's helping me out just making the transition from college to the NFL, he's helping me out in a lot of ways."
With a new challenge awaiting on Sunday in Calvin Johnson, one of the game's elite receiver, how did Allen grade out in his first game according to his partner?
"I think he did well," said Mikell. "If you ask him, he'll say that he has to work on this or that, that's the mark of a good player, a good pro. But I think for his first game as a starter, all eyes on him, everybody looking at him, I think he did a very good job."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 2:45 p.m., September 18