Before the Philadelphia Eagles even hit the field for practice on Thursday, head coach Chip Kelly tipped the team's hand at one of the most interesting position battles on the roster this offseason. For now at least, returning veteran Nate Allen is the favorite to win his competition with second year safety Earl Wolff.
"Nate's the first guy up. And Earl is in running with the second group right now," Kelly explained. "And both have done a great job in the offseason program. We're excited to see those guys play it out."
Thursday's practice reflected Kelly's sentiments. Allen ran with the ones while Wolff rotated in with the twos. This really shouldn't be unexpected. Allen, who previously struggled playing behind Jim Washburn's Wide-9 front, proved to play OK last year when the Eagles asked less of him. Wolff showed some promise as a rookie when he filled in for Patrick Chung but then went down with an injury that essentially ended his 2013 campaign.
Wolff downplayed the idea that his rookie performance earned him a starting role in the second year, though. "Not at all, honestly. I ended up getting hurt. Nate [Allen] played pretty good [...] I wasn't mad when we came back [this offseason] and I saw his name above mine. He deserved it."
Wolff also noted that being listed behind Allen serves as self-motivation. "Always. Even if my name was ahead of him I know that doesn't guarantee anything." For the Eagles, it's good to see their second year safety is embracing the competition. Wolff is not only competing against Allen for a starting job, but also against the likes of Chris Maragos and rookie Ed Reynolds for a roster spot.
The second starting safety spot next to Malcolm Jenkins will come down to who plays better this summer, so there's still plenty of time left before it's decided. Allen clearly has the edge to start. In order to unseat the incumbent veteran, Wolff will have to step up and clearly prove he's undoubtedly the better option.