Is Nate Allen good now, part of the Eagles’ future beyond this season?

Is Nate Allen good now, part of the Eagles’ future beyond this season?

One of the more incredible developments this season has been the emergence of the Eagles’ bend-don’t-break defense, which has now made it eight straight games holding opponents to 21 points or less. It’s quite the reversal from a year ago, when the Birds’ D did not allow fewer than 21 over their final 11.

What’s maybe most amazing of all—besides the fact that this is taking place in the first season of a transition from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4—is it’s a lot of the same personnel. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has done an amazing job making what he was told were square pegs in Trent Cole and DeMeco Ryans fit into round holes, while the development of several second-year players has been top notch.

Cole and Ryans are football players though, we really shouldn’t be surprised to see them excel regardless of scheme or position, and young players are supposed to improve. Davis’ most impressive work to date might be turning Nate Allen into a competent safety when it appeared all hope was lost.

The consensus opinion on Allen entering this season was that of a well-established second-round bust, but the Eagles didn’t really have any choice but to give him one last look. He was under contract, and after all, there are only so many holes a 4-12 team can plug in one offseason.

Safety wasn’t one of the priorities. The front office signed low-level free agents Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips and used a fifth-round pick on Earl Wolff. Allen emerged from training camp as one of the starters by default, the last remaining link to a secondary that surrendered 11 passing plays over 40 yards and a 99.6 opponents’ passer rating in 2012.

Truth be told, Allen’s 2013 didn’t get off to a much better start when he was exposed in Week 2 by the San Diego Chargers. The fourth-year veteran was directly on the hook for two of Philip Rivers’ three touchdown passes, as he was picked on throughout the quarterback’s 419-yard performance. The Birds lost by a field goal in the closing seconds when the defense couldn’t put together a stop on the final three drives.

Allen rebounded from that nauseating experience though. In a matter of months, the former 37th-overall pick has transformed from complete liability to solid hand. He’s become one of the most efficient tacklers at safety in the NFL this season—ranked fourth by Pro Football Focus—and you don’t see the Eagles’ defense getting beat over the top for big passing plays too often, so he must be playing a good centerfield.

Philadelphia was finally rewarded for its patience on Sunday when Allen undercut Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd to intercept an errant Carson Palmer pass, which he then got up and returned for 43 yards. It was the 26-year-old’s first pick since 2011.

So is Nate Allen supposed to be good now? He certainly hasn’t been bad, and at the very least is playing at an above-average level over the past couple months. No. 29 was everywhere against Arizona, often the first man on to the scene anytime a receiver caught the ball in the Birds’ secondary.

Allen finished the game with eight tackles, giving him 71 on the year—two shy of his career high. He also has six pass breakups, a sack and a forced fumble this season.

Why such drastic and sudden improvement? It may be as simple as Allen has been put in a better position to succeed. Back in the offseason, Davis discussed how the previous regime's scheme put a lot on the safeties' plates. They were had serious responsibility in run defense due to the Wide-9 front, yet somehow were simultaneously asked to serve as the last line of defense.

"It's a completely different scheme with some of the same players," Davis said. "We're trying to maximize the part of what they do best. In the secondary, any time you ask the secondary to be primary B or A-gap run defenders, you're asking for trouble on play-action and deep balls.

Whatever the reason, the bigger question is becoming what happens to Allen after this season when he’ll be a free agent? Wolff has played well and appears to be the immediate future at one of the safety spots, but that still leaves a hole to fill if Allen departs. Chung has been downright awful in relief of the injured Wolff, and the coaching staff won’t replace him with Kurt Coleman or Colt Anderson—also free agents—which tells you all you need to know right there.

The Eagles can probably test the market for themselves. It could be a deep free-agent class with Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd and Cleveland’s T.J. Ward among the top names who could be available. The front office will no doubt look to the draft for another body as well, although that doesn’t necessarily mean a prospect in the first round.

Then there’s Allen, who knows the scheme and is undeniably improving right now. If nothing else, he’s certainly putting himself in the mix for consideration. Who would’ve imagined that at the beginning of the year?

Report: Eagles to work out Darius Reynolds, Jake Mentz on Monday

Report: Eagles to work out Darius Reynolds, Jake Mentz on Monday

Fresh off a 56-42 win in Arena Bowl XXIX, the Soul could be losing two key players.

To the Eagles.

According to ESPN's Adam Caplan, the Eagles are scheduled to work out wide receiver Darius Reynolds and defensive lineman Jake Mentz, two key contributors from the Soul, on Monday.

During the 2016 regular season, Reynolds had 112 catches for 1,447 yards and 38 touchdowns, while Metz led the team with eight sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

The Eagles have 84 on their roster heading into Saturday night's game, but must be down to 75 players by 4 p.m. on Aug. 30 and then down to 53 by 4 p.m. on Sept. 3.

Eagles-Colts preseason: 10 players to watch

Eagles-Colts preseason: 10 players to watch

It’s time for the dress rehearsal.

For the most part, preseason games don’t give us a great idea of how a team will do during the regular season, but at least the third game can sometimes offer a glimpse because starters play the most in this game.

After last year’s preseason Game 3 against the Packers, when it looked like nothing was going to stop Sam Bradford and the Eagles from going to the Super Bowl, hopefully we’ve all learned our lesson. In that game, Bradford looked like Joe Montana and Chip Kelly looked like Bill Walsh. Turns out they were just Bradford and Chipper.

Still, there’s plenty of reason to watch Saturday night. Here are 10 players to keep an eye on:

WR Dorial Green-Beckham
DGB played a little bit last week in Pittsburgh and was targeted twice, but now he’s been with the team for a week and should have a better grasp of the offense. He’ll get some run with the first-team offense, which should be fun to watch. Physically, Green-Beckham is a freak. He’s 6-foot-5, 230, and ran a 4.49 in the 40 coming into the league last year. He has a skillset unlike anyone else on the team and unlike many in the league.

OL Stefen Wisniewski
Because rookie Isaac Seumalo is out Saturday night with a pec injury, the veteran Wisniewski is filling in. Wisniewski has started each of his 77 career NFL games since entering the league and doesn’t want the streak to end. He views Saturday as an audition to win the starting job, although Doug Pederson said he won’t strip Seumalo of his starting gig because of injury. Even if Wisniewski isn’t a starter, he’s still the top backup at all three interior linemen positions.

CB Leodis McKelvin
McKelvin hasn’t done a ton to impress during training camp or in the first two preseason games, but he’s still clearly a starting cornerback on this team — even though Nolan Carroll has looked better early. It’s important to watch McKelvin because you know what’s coming: a division with Dez, Odell, DeSean and others.

RB Wendell Smallwood
After suffering a quad injury in camp, this will finally be Smallwood’s first NFL game action. The time he missed was significant, but he still likely has a roster spot locked up. The biggest thing he needs to show Saturday is the ability to pass block. If he’s unable, it’ll keep him off the field this season.

QB Sam Bradford
I probably don’t need to tell you to watch the starting quarterback, but I am anyway. The first-team offense didn’t do much to alleviate any fears last week in Pittsburgh. Bradford partially blamed it on purposeful vanilla game-planning because the Eagles face the Steelers in Week 3. That’s probably somewhat fair, but fans probably want to see a little more production from the unit.

LB Mychal Kendricks
A hamstring injury has kept Kendricks out until this point of the preseason, but he should be good to go Saturday. The oft-injured Kendricks was probably one of the more frustrating players on the 2015 team. He has plenty of talent, but needs to finally put it all together. This is our first look at him in the new defense.

WR Paul Turner
The future Hall of Famer is pushing hard for a roster spot. He’s been good during camp and the preseason, but his lack of versatility could hurt him. He’s a slot receiver and the Eagles already have a pretty good one in Jordan Matthews, and Josh Huff could be OK in that spot, too. Turner’s pushing for a spot is a result of his play paired with the struggling group.

TE Chris Pantale
Earlier this week, Pederson still seemed committed to keeping four tight ends, which would mean Pantale’s roster spot is safe. It’s fair to wonder, though, if he’s worth a roster spot, especially if Trey Burton is at least somewhat capable of playing fullback. That lead blocker role is why Pantale is still in the mix, so we’ll have to see how much Pederson uses it on Saturday.

LB Stephen Tulloch
Tulloch is 31, coming off an offseason ankle surgery and just joined the team recently. How much does the middle linebacker have left to give? It’s pretty clear he’s coming to Philly to be a backup for now, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can prove himself to the point where he warrants playing time. Knowing Jim Schwartz’s defense should allow him to jump in quicker than another player off the street.

WR Rueben Randle/Chris Givens
A two-for-one deal! I’m lumping these two together because they’re in similar situations. Both signed one-year “prove-it” deals, but what have they proven so far? With the addition of Green-Beckham and with the solid play of Turner, it looks like one or both of these veterans could be in danger of being left off the 53-man roster.

Best of MLB: Bryant homers twice, Cubs spoil Ruiz's Dodgers debut

Best of MLB: Bryant homers twice, Cubs spoil Ruiz's Dodgers debut

LOS ANGELES -- Kris Bryant hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the 10th inning to go with an earlier solo shot, lifting the Chicago Cubs over the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 on Friday night in the series opener between NL division leaders.

Bryant's 35th homer capped a comeback from an earlier two-run deficit and extended the Cubs' winning streak to four games. Chicago fans chanted "MVP! MVP!" as Bryant scored behind Dexter Fowler, who singled leading off.

Chicago improved to 19-4 in August while earning its major league-leading 82nd victory.

Travis Wood (4-0) got the victory with one inning of relief. Aroldis Chapman struck out two in the 10th to earn his 10th save.

Adam Liberatore (2-1) took the loss, allowing two runs and four hits in one inning (see full recap).

Mariners overcome Sale's 14 K's to beat White Sox
CHICAGO -- Chris Sale struck out 14 but got outpitched by Felix Hernandez and the Seattle bullpen, and the Mariners ended a three-game skid Friday night by beating the Chicago White Sox 3-1.

Hernandez (9-4) improved to 5-0 in eight starts since returning from the disabled list, throwing 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

Sale (15-7) gave up five hits and walked none in his fifth complete game of the season. He retired the final 16 batters, striking out 10 of them.

Sale struck out six straight in the sixth and seventh innings, one shy of Joe Cowley's team record.

Franklin Gutierrez hit a solo home run and Adam Lind added an RBI double off Sale.

Todd Frazier's 32nd home run in the seventh was one of eight hits off Hernandez until he left with the bases loaded (see full recap).

Gonzalez earns 100th win as Nationals top Rockies
WASHINGTON -- Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy hit solo homers and drove in two runs each, and Gio Gonzalez earned his 100th career victory as the Washington Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies 8-5 on Friday night.

Gonzalez (9-9) threw six innings and allowed two runs and four hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

Mark Melancon retired Christhian Adames for the final out. Melancon entered the game shortly after Nick Hundley hit a three-run homer off Shawn Kelley to pull the Rockies within three.

While Gonzalez hit the century mark, Rockies rookie Jeff Hoffman (0-2), remains in search of his first major league win (see full recap).