New Raiders safety Nate Allen had the best year of his pro career in 2014, intercepting a team-high four passes for the Philadelphia Eagles.
He also was solid in run support, with 70 tackles, and recovered three fumbles.
So, with the draft still on the horizon, Allen, 27, is penciled in by most as the likely starter for Oakland in 2015 at strong safety alongside Charles Woodson at free safety. If camp opened today, Allen's prime competition would be holdover Brandian Ross. Many also believe the Raiders will draft a safety, perhaps in the second or third round.
But Allen has had his critics. Last year, the Eagles’ secondary wasn’t very good, giving up the second-most yards in the NFL, and Allen was a part of that. Philadelphia, after all, decided to move on and allow Allen to depart in free agency.
Marc Sessler of NFL.com, for instance, doesn’t believe Allen will be a big-impact player.
“Too often fried with the Eagles, Allen is hardly a premier safety,” wrote Sessler. “Oakland needs depth at the position, though, making the Raiders a candidate to add more talent through April’s draft.”
But according to Pro Football Focus, Allen is improving.
Pro Football Focus, which grades the performance of NFL players, ranked Allen as the sixth-best safety available in free agency, noting:
“Allen improved in each of the last two seasons following a -13.0 graded 2012. Last season he graded positively in both run defense and coverage while playing primarily as a deep safety, though he also saw snaps near the line of scrimmage and in the slot. Got his hands on six passes … including four interceptions. … That improvement will likely be a focal point for teams and, along with his age (27), may suggest that he still has a chance to reach his potential that saw him picked in the second round in 2010.”
Allen, who played at South Florida, is 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds and has played both strong and free safety in his five seasons with the Eagles. He said he’s excited to play with Woodson.
“He is who he is, a future Hall of Famer,” Allen told the Raiders website. “Just to be able to work alongside a dude like that, I mean I couldn’t ask for a better situation. He’s been around the game for what, 18 years now? This is his 18th year, so he’s seen just about everything and been through just about everything, so I just feel like I have a lot that I can learn from him.”