PHILADELPHIA -- With training camp approaching within weeks, let’s continue our weeklong look at the players with the most to prove, and the most to lose, this summer.
It would have been so easy for Nate Allen to move on. A second-round pick in 2010, Allen surely would have gotten the attention of one of the teams that liked him in that draft. But Allen decided to re-up with the Eagles, choosing a rare chance for some stability after four seasons of almost constant change.
When training camp opens, Allen will be one of the starting safeties. The question is whether he'll still hold that title when the season opens in September.
His main competition will come from his former partner, Earl Wolff. A fifth-round pick last season, Wolff was pressed into the starting lineup last year after Patrick Chung was injured. He stayed there after Chung healed. The reason, you couldn’t help thinking, was that Wolff at least played as if he cared.
Allen intercepted a pass from Aaron Rodgers in his very first game as a rookie in 2010. In four seasons, he has managed to intercept just five more. Allen has been hampered throughout his career by instability in the coaching staff -- a different defensive coordinator every year -- and having to play with some less-than-stellar teammates.
He has suffered, too, from comparisons to the beloved Brian Dawkins. Allen simply isn't that kind of player or person. While Dawkins threw his body and his heart around fearlessly, Allen plays the game in a much more reserved fashion. He is not the big hitter that Dawkins was, but then, that seems to be disappearing from the game in general.
Wolff plays a bit more like the throwback Eagles fans seem to want to watch, but he had a lot to learn after his rookie season. Wolff immediately began studying the approach of veteran Malcolm Jenkins, who signed with the Eagles as a free agent.
Jenkins' leadership will benefit whichever safety winds up starting alongside him. Allen is at a point in his career where he should be providing that kind of leadership himself, but he was ill-served by all the change around him.
This year, for the first time, Allen returns to a familiar defensive scheme run by the same coordinator. He doesn't have to be the steadying influence with Jenkins out there. It could be the year Allen really lives up to his potential, or at last runs out of chances to try.