It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Nate Allen the past couple years.
In the 2014 offseason, the Eagles were lukewarm on re-signing him, offering him only a one-year deal. He was looking for a long term deal somewhere and couldn’t find it. The Raiders also offered him a one-year deal, but since he could get that from his former team, he opted to stay in Philadelphia instead.
That season was his best in the NFL and come the 2015 offseason, the Raiders came calling again, this time armed with the long term deal he coveted. He was signed and named the starter to open the season and immediately was lost to injury in the first game.
The Raiders placed Allen on partial season injured reserve. He returned healthy for three games before going out with another injury and this time was lost for the season.
This offseason, he was cut just before his guaranteed money was to kick in. Then — just as he did with the Eagles — he re-signed to a one-year deal in the hopes of once again proving he was worthy of a starting job, and perhaps another long term deal down the road.
A month after Allen re-signed, the Raiders made West Virginia safety Karl Joseph their top pick in the draft at 14 overall. Joseph too was recovering from injury. He suffered an ACL injury last season at West Virginia and it would keep him out the entirety of the offseason.
Also added to the team was free agent Reggie Nelson on a two-year deal. He too was recovering from an ankle injury he suffered in the playoffs with the Bengals.
With Joseph and Nelson rehabbing, Allen was the first team safety throughout OTA’s and minicamp. But come training camp, Nelson and Joseph were back and Allen was instantly relegated to the second team.
Joseph has been slow to return to form. This preseason, he was not the hard-hitting, ball hawk of which he had developed a reputation in college. All of which is understandable after missing 10 months rehabbing from a serious injury.
“Karl’s doing good, man,” said Reggie Nelson. “He’s taking it in stride, he’s studying. Karl’s been doing his part and I’ve been doing my part trying to help him; if he has any questions I’m always there to answer his questions and if I don’t have the answer, I’ll send him somewhere else. I don’t want to be giving him any wrong information or nothing like that. Karl is doing good, he’s doing his part.”
Meanwhile, Allen has played considerably well and has showed the talent that had him as the team’s starter heading into last season. And he has earned the job again this year.
“I think for us, it’s all about competition,” Jack Del Rio said of Allen getting the nod. “Guys competing and then you basically get what you earn.”
Allen’s return to the starting job is the right decision. No starting jobs changed hands during camp, but coming into the season, the team can’t afford to continue to let a rookie go through trial and error – not when there’s a capable starting caliber veteran player ready right now.
“Nate is a good leader, man,” added Nelson. “He’s been helping me out a lot with the defense. Like I said, that’s when Nate comes in and helps me. If I made a check in a walk-thru and it was wrong, I’ll go ask Nate. He’s been doing a great job of leading this group also, I’m not the only leader in the secondary, there’s a bunch of us.”
Allen himself isn’t going to say anything to jinx this. He won’t even acknowledge that he has been named the starter, even though this week’s depth chart has him atop it.
“I don’t even know what’s going on with anything,” said Allen. “I’m just kinda getting ready for the Saints right now and we’ll let everything else fall into place, whether it be starting on special teams or defense or wherever it is. My main focus is just getting ready for the Saints and helping us win however I can.”
Fair enough, Nate.