Eagles 2012 Breakout Candidate #1 – Free Safety Nate Allen

Jun 14, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles safety Nate Allen (29) runs back a ball during mini camp at the Philadelphia Eagles NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

This is the latest in a series we've be doing here on BGN written by John Breitenbach (@PFF_John), who is a big Eagles fan and best known for his work on Pro Football Focus. Check out the rest of the series here.

Unlike when Jaiquawn Jarrett was drafted, the Eagles were applauded for their selection of Nate Allen in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft. While some experts predicted he would sneak into the end of round one, he reached the Eagles in the second and they gladly snatched him up. We're two years since then though and he hasn't quite developed into the player the organisation surely hoped he would become. Perhaps even more so than with Brandon Graham, Allen has been troubled by injuries. Entering his third year with a clean bill of health can he break out? Here's why I think he will:

Coverage

The Inconsistency

Targets

Receptions

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

Games 1-4 (2010) and 18-22 (2011)

21

6

71

0

4

7

Games 5-11 (2010) and 12-17 (2011)

36

26

469

7

1

1

Includes only games where Allen started and finished

The above table definitely shows Allen has the potential to become a very good NFL safety. He had a fantastic start to his career, picking off three passes in his first four weeks. Allen's luck ran out however and, after a string of injury affected performances, he found himself on IR. He wasn't even healthy enough to start the first few games of 2011 as Jarrad Page was given the nod. The good news is Allen finished his second season as he began his first, on fire. After a terrible game against New England Allen was back to his best. Eagles' fans will hope those five performances were a sign of things to come.

Check after the jump for play by play breakdown

Here's a comparison of a pair of plays a couple of weeks apart:

Nate_1_medium

The Eagles are in zone and Allen has deep responsibility. Hernandez runs a deep in.

Nate_2_medium

Hernandez easily generates separation and Allen is a good five yards from him when he makes the catch.

Then compare that to a play against the Cowboys in week 16 (albeit with a worse QB):

Nate_3_medium

Allen faces basically the same route and the Eagles have basically the same defensive play called.

Nate_4_medium

This time he reacts much quicker and breaks up the pass.

Run defense

Tackles

Missed tackles

Tackle %

Games 1-4 (2010) and 18-22 (2011)

31

2

93.9

Games 5-11 (2010) and 12-17 (2011)

54

11

83.1

This table is the same as above but for run defense

As you can see Allen was also a much better tackler during his good streaks. I think it would be fair to assume the injuries had a significant impact on his performances and that he should be much better a year removed from his knee operation.

If Allen can produce the form he's shown in bursts for longer periods of time he could become one of the league's best safeties. He has all the physical tools to be top notch but has never quite reached the top echelon for a variety of reasons. With the winner of the camp battle between OJ Atogwe and Kurt Coleman manning one spot, and a healthy Allen manning the other, the Eagles safeties could go from a weakness to a strength in 2012.

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