Practice had been over for a time and just a few stragglers remained around the NovaCare fields. Jason Avant was feeding balls into the jugs machine for a growing legion of eager young receivers. A group of reporters milled around mining for nuggets and subjects to interview.
A short distance away on their own little piece of land stood Brian Dawkins and Nate Allen, locked in conversation. Dawkins took in practice following Donovan McNabb’s retirement ceremony and had some pointers for the 25-year-old safety.
“He gives me tips all the time,” said Allen. “We were just going over some one-on-one stuff right there. I guess he was watching us do one-on-ones and he was giving me a few pointers and tips. Just technique stuff, telling me to be patient.”
Dawkins makes himself available to all the Eagles’ defensive backs should they want his advice. Allen is one of the players who has taken advantage of the opportunity. The fourth-year safety out of South Florida was drafted in the second round in 2010 to help fill the void left by Dawkins when he signed with the Broncos the season prior. His rookie campaign got off to a good start (he was named Defensive Rookie of the Month that September) but Allen ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee in December. He hasn’t been the same player since.
The physical part he has overcome. Dawkins believes it is the psychological element that needs to be mastered.
“It’s just confidence,” said Dawkins. “It’s believing in the talents that he does have. He possesses a lot of talent, but just believing in what he has and allowing that talent to flourish and show. If he can increase the confidence side of his game and just let his athleticism show, there’s no reason he can’t be a game-changing safety in my opinion.”
Both realize that if Allen is going to make an impact, it won’t be in the fashion that Dawkins did. Allen is not a ferocious player. He is not known for laying a big lick. And that’s OK, according to Dawkins.
“It’s not about that, it’s how do you affect the game? How does your game relate to helping your team win. Everybody don’t love contact the way I love contact, they just don’t. And there’s not something wrong with that person. Not everybody is the same. I was crazy in that way,” he said. “His ability to close on the football and make plays on the ball is to me a strength of his. And if he can harness that, if he can own that part of it, it doesn’t matter if you don’t blow people up. He’ll blow people up from time to time but I just want you to make the tackle. You make the tackle on 3rd-and-4, and you make it for a three-yard gain, we’re off the football field, that helps us win ballgames.
“You don’t have to be a killer. We have other guys that could possibly fill that role. [Patrick] Chung is a heavy-hitter. [Kennny] Phillips is a heavy-hitter. We have other guys who can fill that role. Just be a sure-tackler.”
Allen missed 13 tackles last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly brought some competition into the fold at safety this offseason, signing Chung and Phillips and drafting Earl Wolff. So far, it’s been Allen primarily running with the first team opposite Chung. He is confident he can have a big 2013, but knows he needs to do it in his own way.
“When I first got in here, everybody was like, ‘Be this. You’re filling big shoes.’ But I’m not trying to be B-Dawk. He’s a Hall-of-Fame guy. He’s B-Dawk. I’m going to be me and play my style and help the team however I can,” said Allen. “We understand that we have different styles but at the end of the day we’re both safeties and I’m trying to makes as many plays as I can.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Go inside Monday’s practice with Sheil’s running diary.
Russell Shepard is riding high after endorsement from his idol, Michael Vick.
The Eagles lose linebacker Jason Phillips to a torn ACL.
Kelly says there will be no tackling to the ground during camp.
Did the Eagles weigh Donovan McNabb‘s complicated relationship with the city before deciding to retire his number?
Jeffrey Lurie says the Eagles would have drafted Edgerrin James if McNabb was off the board.
With Jeremy Maclin out, Riley Cooper gets his shot.
Click here to get your 2013 Eagles Almanac.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal says that NFL referees will likely slow down Kelly’s offense.
As Kelly mans his first full week of NFL training camp, installing a high-revving Ferrari engine into the Eagles’ offense, league insiders say there are exactly zero indications NFL referees will be willing participants in the Kelly era. The NFL, they say, has a long-standing pace at which they do things between plays and the referees “aren’t going to change just to accommodate someone’s offense,” said Mike Pereira, a former NFL vice president of officiating who is now an analyst for Fox Sports.
“We have to make sure teams understand that they don’t control the tempo, our officials do,” said NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino. “We’re going through our normal ball mechanics, we aren’t going to rush [unless] it’s in the two minute drill.”
Phil Sheridan looks back at McNabb’s career.
From 2000, McNabb’s first season as a full-time starter, through 2008 was the best sustained era of Eagles football. Andy Reid made that possible. Dawkins and the Jim Johnson-coached defense made that possible. But none of it would have happened without McNabb. Anyone who doesn’t grasp and accept that just doesn’t grasp or understand football.
A day off for the players but not for us.