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Don't Compare Allen To Dawkins

Comparing Allen To Dawkins Not A Smart Idea

By Lance Epstein

Every time a new draftee comes along to replace a well-respected and highly regarded veteran that the team trades or let go via free agency, the fans, media members and even coaches seemed to justify comparing the new with the old. However doing so usually leads to drastic consequences and disappoint from every perspective.

One example of this so far this offseason with the Eagles has been the comparisons between defensive end Brandon Graham to former Eagle Hugh Douglas and Trent Cole.

"He's got about 270 pounds. He reminds you, I think when you see him, his body type a little bit of Hugh Douglas. I don't want to pump Hugh up here too big. He looks a little bit like Hugh Douglas, he kind of plays like Hugh Douglas,” said Reid that compared Graham’s abilty to former Eagle Douglas. “He is a relentless, relentless player.”

The Philly media appears to be hyping up Graham (6-1, 268) as the reincarnation of Douglas because he plays with a high motor, has short arms, but has a solid bases. Can Graham become a great player? Yes and he has the talent to be one of the best in the league. Still, he has never even taken a single snap in the NFL to warrant that high of praise yet.

Yet, he is not the player that Eagles enthusiast should be concerned with right now. He is only trying to replace Juqua Parker and Victor Abiamiri. The player that has the most burdens on his broad shoulders is South Florida safety Nate Allen.

Whether or not Allen likes it, he will be the guy counted on to replace an icon in the organization [city as well] and a potential Hall of Fame safety in Brian Dawkins. In fact, one of the first questions he was asked after being selected by the Eagles at No. 37 [pick acquired via McNabb trade] was about replacing the legend.

“He's Brian Dawkins,'' Allen said. “You don't need to say much. They said something about it, and it's an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, too."

For 13 seasons, Dawkins gave the Eagles faithful something to cheer about on game day. One play, the man known as Weapon X, would drop a jaw-dropping hit like the one he put on current Eagle quarterback Michael Vick. Another down he was making a key interception of Brett Favre to secure an Eagles victory.

Even when he was not making plays, he was induced the Eagles fan base to get into a frenzy, which made it one of the loudest and toughest places to play in the entire NFL. Furthermore, Dawkins had an unspoken connection with the blue-collar city that might never been seen again.

For fans must understand that there is and will only be one Dawkins to ever roam Lincoln Financial Field and Veterans Stadium. Unfortunately, Dawkins is the type of player that is a once in a decade and maybe even once in a generation type player.

This is not to say that Allen cannot become great, but he should be able to demonstrate this in his own image. Fans need to quit trying to transform him into something he is not. Yes there are numerous similarities between he and Dawkins. Allen was a second round pick just like Dawkins. He too had double-digit interceptions in college with 10, just like Dawkins had at Clemson with 11. Both were captains and driving forces of their respective defenses. Nevertheless that is where the comparisons should stop.

If last year taught Philadelphia anything, it is that no two players are ever alike or should be even evaluated by the career of another player. Entering last year, fans and the front office tried to convince themselves that free safety Quintin Demps was a adequate understudy.

President Joe Banner and Reid adored Demps and reported that they saw a lot of Dawkins in him. They even thought he was better-suited start than the headhunter that patrolled the Eagles defensive secondary for over a decade. Everyone saw how that turned out; Demps failed and failed miserably. He lost the job in training camp and did not even start a game the entire 2009 season. The pressure and expectations were too much for the youngster to overcome.

If Demps failure was not enough, the Macho Harris bandwagon got awfully full as well. People everywhere were making him out to be Dawkins 2.0 as he came into training camp as a rookie made a name for himself.

Certainly, it was impressive that he started in 2009 at the free safety position even though his natural position in college was at cornerback. While Harris did a commendable job in his first year playing there and doing it as a rookie, he never should be mentioned in the same breathe as Dawkins. Yet during the preseason everyone was still looking to anoint him as the second coming.

This ultimately leads back to Allen and Dawkins being intertwined with each other in Eagles lore. Will they always be synonymous with one another in Philadelphia? Probably, but they shouldn't because are two completely different players.

Allen is bit taller at 6-foot-1 than the 5-foot-10 Dawkins. Additionally, he is more of a true centerfielder that has the knack and natural instincts to make a big play over the middle. Although, he must refine his tackling skills to become an elite player and is not exactly known for the explosive hit. The former Bull is more of a finesse player; the type of safety that the game is changing towards in this pass happy league.

As for Dawkins, the man could do it all early in his career [still a Pro Bowl caliber player as his career is coming to an end]. He could play centerfield, light up an opposing team's wide receivers and was a tackling machine in the running game.

For Allen his career unfortunately will always be measure to what Brian Dawkins has accomplished. It is true that comparisons sometimes do workout for the best, but history has also shown that it can destroy and derail a young player’s career.

Even with the fans putting this Atlas [Greek mythology] globe size pressure on the young man's shoulders, he has the right frame of mind.

"I'm just going to come in and be myself and play my game and just try to help the team win,'' Allen said.

If Allen manages to sidestep the comparisons, stay true to his word, utilizes his leadership skills and wins football games, he might actually live up to the overwhelming expectation placed upon him. On the other hand, if he does accomplish the unthinkable, he could earn the honor of having Eagles fans call his eventual replacement the next "Nate Allen."


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