BETHLEHEM - Once Nate Allen reaches a benchmark, a new one is set for the rookie free safety.

In the spring, the Eagles wanted to see him in pads. Check.

"I think he's held his own to this point," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said after yesterday's no-hitting session. "I don't see any reason to believe he wouldn't be a very good tackler for us. Anything above that is yet to be seen, in terms of his intensity, once we get into game situations."

Allen will get his chance to answer McDermott's and coach Andy Reid's call for producing against a different opponent and offensive scheme next Friday in the preseason opener at Lincoln Financial Field against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then, it will be seen if Allen continues being a "smooth operator," as Reid called him after Thursday's morning session.

"You've just gotta be calm out there," Allen said. "You've just got to take it all in as it comes and try to keep a straight mind out there. There's so much going on. The bullets are flying, but you just gotta stay calm and think about what you're doing."

Allen has given the coaches a peek at what's going on inside his brain when he's on the practice field, and Reid and McDermott seem satisfied with his intelligence and how he applies defensive concepts to his game.

Strong safety Quintin Mikell echoed Reid's and McDermott's comments on Allen's football IQ, adding that rookies typically struggle learning blitzes and techniques not taught at the college level. But make no mistake, Mikell warned, Allen is not some football nerd afraid to get in a guy's face.

"His transition in just making plays on the field and not being afraid of contact, it doesn't really seem like it's a big jump for him, which is a good thing to see," Mikell said.

Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, expected to be the leader of a deep Eagles defense counting on youth to produce, doesn't see those young players - Allen included - as a roadblock to having a championship-caliber defense.

"It's not like we have rookies playing every position," Bradley said.

One is Allen, who seems to be ahead of the curve. Misalignment has been one of the few areas he has made mistakes in since camp kicked off 11 days ago.

But the Eagles know that's simply a teaching point. McDermott is impressed with how smooth Allen is, not only playing at 210 pounds and quarterbacking the defense at times, but handling himself in a mature way off the field as well.

"You just gotta focus," Allen said. "That's where learning the playbook and really knowing what you're doing out there comes into play, because you've just got to be right every play. You have to be on your A-game every play."

Said quarterback Kevin Kolb, whose passes have been picked off more times by Allen than he'd like so far in training camp: "I like the way he came into camp expecting to be that guy."