As mentioned last week, there aren't really many position battles on the Philadelphia Eagles roster as far as starting jobs are concerned. The exception to that general rule, however, is at safety where veteran Nate Allen and second year talent Earl Wolff are competing for the starting position next to top free agent acquisition Malcolm Jenkins.
All indications are that it's been a pretty evenly matched battle so far, with the veteran Allen starting out with a slight edge by taking repetitions with the first team defensive unit. That seemed to change during the team's Wednesday practice, however. Wolff was moved up to the first team while Allen was bumped down to the second unit.
Wolff's promotion is undoubtedly deserved. He made the play of the day during Monday's practice: an impressive leaping pass deflection on a deep ball intended for wide receiver Arrelious Benn. Meanwhile, Allen hasn't really done anything to stand out, good or bad. Allen isn't quick to make too much out of the current situation, however.
"That's every year. Since I've been here," Allen explained regarding the safety rotation. "That's the way it is and we're all going to work together and make each other better. I'm not worried about where I am. I'm just going to play ball and be Nate and help the team out where I can."
Allen's approach is probably for the best. The Eagles rotate a number of players with differently ranked units. It's possible Wolff could be running with the second group again tomorrow or in a few days for now.
"We all have to work together," Allen said. "Like we always say, you're always one play away from being a starter. So we all have to be able to work together and get a feel for each other. I think [the rotation] is good."
Allen's words echoed the sentiment from Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis earlier in the week. While most are viewing the safety battle strictly as Allen vs. Wolff, Davis says it's more than that.
"I don't see it as just those two going at each other. I see the safety positions are up for grabs," Davis explained. We bring Malcolm [Jenkins] in. We have got new faces in. Chris [Maragos] is involved. All the guys, all the safeties that are lined up at safety, it's an open competition just like we talked about at the corner position. And we roll them in and out. So I don't see it as a two-man race for that one spot. Right now we are in the very first of training camp and it's open for all of them and we'll be rolling them and they get a chance to go against 1s, 2s, and 3s."
With that said, Wolff seemed to make the most of his opportunity on Wednesday. He said he felt like he had a "perfect practice", aside from a dropped interception on a Nick Foles pass over the middle of the field. Wolff, now in his second year, certainly doesn't lack confidence.
"I know I can be really good in this league. I know I can," Wolff stated. "That's my goal. My goal is to be great. […] I want to be the best. I feel like I'm talented enough to be the best.
While Wolff dropped an interception, many of other Eagles defensive backs did not. Cary Williams, Brandon Boykin, and Malcolm Jenkins (who had two), all got their hands on a pass today. Wolff noted how Jenkins' interception early in practice set the tone for the defense. Wolff went on to say he expects the Eagles defense to play with more energy this season.
"We're going to turn it up on the field a lot more this year," Wolff said, with a grin. "Last year we were making plays too […] but this year we're going to bring a lot of energy to this defense."
It'll be interesting to see how this battle plays out because things sure look even at this point. And there's no timetable as to when this competition will end, though it's likely the decision will be made before the regular season starts.
"Yeah. I don't know what's going to happen," Allen responded when asked about the time frame for a starter to be named. "I'm just going to play ball and let everything handle itself."