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Nate Allen to Start at Safety for Eagles, but Earl Wolff Will Play

Sep 4, 2013, 1:25 PM EDT

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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.

Sort of.

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.

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.

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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.

  1. mattcrwi - Sep 4, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    You’d take Coleman over Allen? Seriously? Did you see how many play action passes Coleman bit on last year?

    Reply
    • Andrew Kulp - Sep 4, 2013 at 1:38 PM

      That’s a fair point, but there is some reason to believe now that those plays weren’t entirely his fault. These quotes are from a story by Sheil Kapadia at Birds 24/7 back in July.

      “Not to say that the safeties aren’t going to be called on to make plays against the run, but we’re not going to be the first guys onto the scene,” he said this spring. “It’s going to be a big change for us, which is kind of good. It allows us to sit back and read the QB a little more, be more patient.”

      During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Eagles safeties had big-time run responsibilities. That not only led to struggles against opposing tailbacks, but disastrous results against play-action.

      “Any time you ask the secondary to be primary B or A gap run defenders, you’re just asking for trouble on play-action and deep balls,” said Billy Davis. “I hate to talk too much about last season not being here, but just all the transition and all the different communications that happened, I don’t know how you fight through that and play good. I really don’t.”

      http://www.phillymag.com/eagles/2013/07/20/eagles-training-camp-preview-safeties/

      I mean, I’m not saying I’m in love with the idea of Coleman starting either, but at least when he’s the last line of defense against the run, he usually comes up and hits the ball carrier.

      Reply
    • sparki1980 - Sep 4, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      Yea. the problem with Coleman is not hits like that one against Richardson… if anything that was showing that Coleman can take a big hit and still make a sure tackle (a big hit that is now illegal, it was the replaying highlight always shown when talking about runners lowering their head for the new rule). Coleman’s problem was that if the runningback farts he bits, giving away big yardage on playaction fakes.

      Reply
    • Steve - Sep 5, 2013 at 2:10 AM

      Things were so screwed up last year that the secondary looked partly because of multiple coaching changes that hurt everyone.Hopefully some better coaching will help relieve some of the horrible play.

      Reply
  2. Jay D - Sep 4, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    give it three games….we will then see where were at defensively

    Reply

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