Eagles' safety Nate Allen has a love/hate relationship with fans. He was a high pick just three years ago, but outside of some quality play in his rookie season, Allen has under-delivered. The South Florida alum has been a liability against the run and has gained a reputation of being "soft" among the local media and fanbase.
Despite the negativity surrounding Allen outside of the NovaCare Complex, the coaching staff apparently has other ideas. On Tuesday, the team released its first official depth chart since cutting the roster down to 53 players, and listed Allen as a the starting strong safety opposite Patrick Chung and in front of promising rookie Earl Wolff. While he may not have stood out during the preseason, the depth chart seems to indicate the former second-round pick did enough to win the job.
We can only speculate as to why the Eagles picked Allen over Wolff, but on paper, the move makes sense. While Allen has had a tough time against the run, his pass coverage is above average to the point that you feel comfortable having him out there with an enforcer like Chung. He is also experienced and played for three different coordinators, so he understands the NFL game. There is also the room for error created by starting a veteran over a rookie. If Allen falters, the team can easily put in Wolff. If the scenario was reversed, you risk the chance of destroying Allen's confidence as well as the locker room's trust in the three-year starter.
For Wolff, being a backup will allow him to get a bigger feel for the game and get use to the grind of being a professional football player. Some players say that being in a "trial by fire" experience is the best way to learn, but the Eagles have failed in similar situations with Macho Harris and Quintin Demps. Those players were never able to get to a level of success that was worthy of being a long-term starter as early struggles hurt their confidence and exposed their faults.
For now, it makes sense to go with Allen over Wolff, simply because you know what you are getting with the veteran. While Wolff has been promising, there is no reason to rush him onto the field. He may very well be the future starter, but for now Allen is the better option because he is more experienced and has no choice but to succeed in a contract year.