After watching Nate Allen awake from the doldrums last season and actually become a capable safety again, the Eagles believe the fifth-year pro is ready to take another step.
Maybe even fulfill that potential he had when they drafted him 37th overall in 2010.
At the owners meetings in Orlando on Monday, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman discussed the one-year deal Allen signed last week to rejoin the club he started 16 games for last year and the improvement Allen showcased under the new coaching staff.
Allen will have the chance to compete with second-year pro Earl Wolff -- and perhaps a draft pick -- to start opposite free-agent signing Malcolm Jenkins, giving the Eagles a tandem that they believe can be effective, if not prolific.
“It’s not going to be perfect at every position, obviously. But when you talk about Nate -- we had an opportunity to go back and watch Nate and see the growth,” Roseman said. “What we’re asking him to do is a lot different than what he was asked to do in the past.
“Obviously, all the other stuff is off the charts with Nate -- his work ethic, his character, his drive to try to be a better player. So you just kind of hope to see the growth continue in a young player, because he still is a young player.
“It’s interesting -- when you look at some of these free agents who got some big money, a lot of those guys didn’t really evolve until their fourth or fifth year. Some of those guys even had to go into last year taking one-year contracts in free agency and then got paid after that. That’s what you hope for with Nate.”
Allen didn’t have an outstanding 2013, but he played very steadily and limited negative plays. More importantly, he stayed healthy and started every game for the first time in his career.
He recorded his first interception since 2011 and his first sack since his rookie season, playing for the first time in coordinator Billy Davis’ hybrid 3-4 scheme. His tackling, abysmal the two prior years, improved dramatically.
The Eagles think Allen can make more strides with another round of spring and summer camps under Davis, Allen’s fourth different coordinator.
“Yeah. We think the arrow’s up and he’ll certainly benefit from having the same cast of characters around him in terms of coaches and scheme,” Roseman said. “So that’s what we’re looking for. I think it’s really important that we create competition everywhere.
“We continue to do that, and I think that’s another thing we did when we brought in Darren [Sproles] on the offensive side of the ball. We want to have a team that has competition at all these positions, so I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
With Jenkins, Allen, newcomer Chris Maragos and Keelan Johnson, the Eagles lack star power at safety as the NFL continues its trend toward pass-first offenses. But Roseman said the team would continue to explore upgrades at the position through free agency and the draft.
There’s no reason to think the Eagles won’t draft another safety if he’s the best prospect on their board when they pick.
The Eagles let big-ticket safeties, such as Jairus Byrd and T.J Ward, go elsewhere for big-time dollars and were more than content to bring in guys who they believe fit their philosophy and scheme without choking up cap space.
“You start 22 guys, and it’s such a team game that one player isn’t going to put you over the top in any way,” Roseman said. “We sit there and try to think of any example where just one specific player puts you over the top -- obviously the quarterback position is so important in this game, but at the other 21 positions, you look at it and we have to find fits. We have to find guys that we utilize in our scheme and are right fits for our scheme.
“For us, it’s all about making sure that the guys that we’re paying money to are fitting our scheme. Not just paying because they can do something well, but we’re not going to maximize their talents. We have a limited amount of resources -- we have a limited amount of picks, we have a limited amount of money to be able to build our team.
“And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build our culture, trying to build a team. And obviously when you’re at this moment in time, sometimes it’s hard to see the complete picture. But we’re trying to execute it.”
CSNPhilly.com contributor Jeff Shain assisted with this story.