Aug 132010

August 12 Philadelphia Inquirer

“Just before the Eagles‘ preseason home opener Friday against Jacksonville, rookie safety Nate Allen – playing his first game as professional – will likely scroll his iPod for something soft and calming.

Allen doesn’t have a pregame ritual – no lucky towels or putting on a certain sock first – but he does follow a routine that begins with quieter moments in the locker room before stepping onto the Lincoln Financial Field’s lined grass to face the bright lights and cheering fans.

There, his earbuds will pump in hip-hop, something hard and energizing as he walks once around the playing field, thinking about his assignments, envisioning interceptions and big hits, and soaking in the atmosphere, looking around the arena rising from the playing surface.

Allen, carrying the most responsibility of any of the Eagles‘ rookies, said he has thought about this game for several days now. He expects to feel a few flutters in his stomach Friday.

“Even though it is preseason, I’m still going into it like it’s a Super Bowl,” Allen said.

Allen has impressed teammates and coaches with his play through training camp. He has made several interceptions, shown range and, teammates said, quickly learned his playbook.

The preseason game will be yet another checkpoint in the development of the 22-year-old rookie who is being counted on to solidify the Eagles‘ free safety spot.

A preseason game, while falling short of the real thing, introduces scenarios and challenges that aren’t replicated in camp.

“One thing you can see is how people react under the lights,” said Quintin Mikell, the veteran safety who has watched Allen learn alongside him in camp.

The Jaguars will run an offense different from the one Allen has seen from the Eagles, requiring different adjustments from the safety, who directs pre-snap traffic on his side of the field. By the second or third day of training camp, Mikell said, the defense gets a feel for the offensive personnel and their tendencies. Allen won’t have that security against the Jaguars.

Then there are the real game consequences. If he makes a big play, does he keep his composure? If he gives up a touchdown, does he rebound?

“There’s something that’s going to come up that we haven’t experienced yet” in camp, Mikell said.

To this point, Allen has appeared unflappable. Handed a starting job less than six weeks after being drafted 37th overall, with the top selection received in exchange for Donovan McNabb, Allen seems at ease on the field, making calls to adjust linebackers and cornerbacks, and in front of cameras, his voice steady.”

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