Nate Allen solidifies starting status

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Eagles rookie free safety Nate Allen has solidified his position as a starter with his play during training camp.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott called Allen unshakable, saying Wednesday that the second-round pick from South Florida has earned the respect of his peers.

The Eagles, who open the preseason Friday night at home against Jacksonville, struggled last season to find a capable free safety after perennial Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins signed with Denver as a free agent.

Quintin Demps, Macho Harris and Sean Jones all struggled trying to win the job. So did the defense as a whole, allowing 27 touchdown passes in 2009, the most since yielding 29 in 1987.

So the Eagles used nine of their 13 draft picks on defensive players, starting in the first round with Brandon Graham, a defensive end from Michigan, and continuing a round later with Allen.

"I feel good with how everything's going so far," Allen said. "There have been nights where I get frustrated with how I've practiced, but I tell myself to keep going, and you've got to learn from your mistakes. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I'm never really satisfied."

He said the biggest challenge to date is learning the Eagles' complex defense.

"No matter how tired and frustrated you are, if you keep working, everything will work out for you," he said.

There were questions before April's draft whether Allen would be physical enough to play in the NFL. But McDermott said Wednesday he couldn't recall Allen missing a single tackle in camp.

And Allen said he had no idea why anyone would be concerned with his physicality.

"I never worried too much about it," he said. "I'm confident in my tackling. I guess that's a thing I was labeled as. Whatever. No big deal."


Starting tight end Brent Celek missed Wednesday's morning session because of illness. Center Nick Cole (knee) and Harris (hamstring) also missed practice.