Sep 4, 2013, 1:25 PM EDT
The Eagles have begun preparing in earnest for their Week 1 matchup with the Washington Redskins next week, but there was just one situation left to settle first. We had a fairly certain idea as to whom would be starting at 21 of the 22 spots on offense and defense, but who won the battle for the second safety spot?
The answer: Nate Allen.
Probably by default more than anything else.
Chip Kelly informed the assembled media before practice on Wednesday that the 2010 second-round pick will start opposite Patrick Chung on Monday night. Honestly, even that news wasn’t all that surprising. Despite some uninspiring performances this summer, Nate never really vacated his role for very long at any point.
The most notable period where Allen was replaced came in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rookie Earl Wolff got his shot with the first-team defense in the second quarter, but on the very first play he took a bad angle to the ball carrier when he was supposed to be the last line of defense, aiding a 63-yard touchdown run by Jordan Todman.
It’s nothing we haven’t seen from Allen before, who took a similarly horrible angle to Stevan Ridley in the preseason opener, resulting in a 62-yard sprint for the Patriots back.
Despite Wolff’s rocky debut however, he seemed pretty solid the rest of the preseason. During training camp, I’d say he stood out more than Allen, who mostly had a quiet summer, for what it’s worth.
The good news for this year’s fifth-round pick is Chip told reporters he will get a chance to play on Monday, and not just in sub-packages per CSN’s Geoff Mosher. Wolff will be on the field with the starters at some point, perhaps so he can get his feet wet in an actual game.
Kelly on Nate Allen-Earl Wolff safety battle: “Earl’s pushing. And he’ll play. It’s just that right now, Nate’s a little ahead of him.”
— Paul Domowitch (@pdomo) September 4, 2013
Update: Derek Sarley of Iggles Blog fame, now of the Daily News, points out Allen and Wolff could both be on the field at the same time. Patrick Chung did get quite a bit of work in as a slot corner at some practices during training camp, and it’s possible we’ll see that look with Allen and Wolff lined up deep.
There is some thinking in the Twitter-verse that Nate is merely keeping Wolff’s seat warm for now, and as the 23-year-old gets more comfortable in the defense and with the speed of the game, he’ll eventually move into the role full-time.
While it’s probably wise to ease Wolff into the lineup, I’m still not so sure Allen would be my first choice to play. Kurt Coleman almost seems like the lesser of two evils, although the coaches might prefer Allen because he’s a better compliment to Chung. Chung has largely played up in the box, while Allen is usually the deep centerfielder.
And you always have to worry about this happening to Coleman against a bigger back like Alfred Morris.
Any way you look at it, the Eagles are a huge question mark on the back end. They may not have to worry about Morris ripping off any 60-yard runs – his long last season was 39 – but Washington uses play action a ton, and they’re very good at it. Robert Griffin III, if he’s ready, will be a huge test for this overhauled secondary.
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