Marlin Jackson's Injury Opens Door for Nate Allen

Bob CunninghamSenior Analyst IJune 2, 2010

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 15:  Safety Nate Allen #5 of the University of South Florida Bulls intercepts a pass against the Cincinnati Bearcats October 15, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

While losing Marlin Jackson's versatility to play either safety or corner back will hurt in the long run, it doesn't mean the Eagles are out of viable options at free safety.

Macho Harris, who recently moved to cornerback, is an option. He wasn't terrible last season, as most of his mistakes were what you would expect out of a rookie. He'd wind up in the wrong place or, if he was where he belonged, he was a half-second too late.

However, Harris looks like a corner back to me. Even with the added bulk he's still a below-average tackler, and as evidenced by the few times he returned kicks, he doesn't relish contact the way a free safety should.

Then there's third-year man, and enigma Quintin Demps.

For the first 16 (or so) games of his rookie season, it looked like they might have found the heir apparent to Brian Dawkins. Demps was flying around, making plays, and showed the speed that Dawkins now lacked.

Then came the playoffs, and a kid who clearly was far too high on himself. He was no longer playing within the scheme, he thought he knew better than Jim Johnson or any veteran on the field with him, and it wound up making him look incredibly foolish.

We won't even delve into the NFC Championship Game, which just happened to be one of the worst games I've seen played by an individual on this Eagles team since the days of Bobby Hoying.

Demps has some growing up to do, and likely won't be able to get back into the Eagles coaching staff's good graces over this offseason. He's most likely a role player/kick returner in 2010.

Second-round pick Nate Allen appears to be the guy who will step in and take the spot.

Allen is everything the Birds are looking for in a free safety. Not only can he cover if left on an island, but he is more than willing to lay a lick on somebody.

He was nursing a quad injury early on OTAs, but he appears healthy and ready to go now. In fact, it wasn't Harris or Demps who stepped in for Jackson (who was running with the first team) after his injury—it was Allen.

Andy Reid is always reluctant to start rookies, but I have a feeling Allen will impress too much in training camp to keep him on the bench.

He's the starter for now, and as long as he doesn't suffer an injury, and can continue to learn the playbook, he should be the guy when the season opens against the Green Bay Packers.

This battle will go through training camp and into the preseason, but I'm putting my money on Allen to show why he was considered by some to be the second-best safety in this draft ahead of Earl Thomas.