When Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis was asked about the team's safety battle on Sunday, he was quick to say the competition isn't over yet. He admit, however, veteran Nate Allen is in the lead over second year safety Earl Wolff.
It's not over yet. I think Nate has the lead. But it's not over. We'll continue to watch this preseason game and see how it goes. I hate, like I said, cutting the team right now or even saying who is in the lineup. The one thing about this roster is you make the 53 and you're active, you're going to play and we rotate, we rotate all of them. They're all playing. They all count. We hate saying 11 starters. We've got different packages now just because we start with dime, does that mean the nose isn't a starter? You start and base. So it's picking the 53 best and using the packages within that and starter back up is really not that important.
Despite this insistence from Davis, it seems pretty clear that the Eagles safety battle is over (for now). Eagles head coach Chip Kelly noted that Allen will be one of the starters sitting out of the team's preseason finale against the New York Jets this week. Beyond this, Allen has looked really sharp in the preseason. Take a look at the stats:
|Name||Snaps||PFF Grade||QB Hurries||Tackles||Assisted||Missed Tackles||Stops||INT||PD|
This safety situation is not dissimilar to the Michael Vick versus Nick Foles quarterback battle from last year. Both competitors are playing well, but the veteran is playing better. As I wrote from the beginning, Wolff would have needed to clearly outplay Allen in order to win the job. While Wolff has looked good as well, he just hasn't separated himself from the pack (bad pun, I know).
It's interesting how Allen's career has progressed to this point. As a former second round pick, Allen once looked like a promising rookie before he majorly struggled in the Eagles' Wide-9 aligned 4-3 defense. Allen even had a rough start to the 2013 season. People were calling for the team to dump him and sign Kerry Rhodes, who is still a free agent. Since then, however, Allen rebounded. He's far from a play-maker -- let's not forget the Eagles let him sit on the free agent market before finally offering him a one-year contract worth $2 million -- but he's a good tackler and decent in coverage. He's not a liability.
As far as Wolff is concerned, his summer efforts are not in vain. The second year defensive back will likely rotate in as a third safety depending on the package. For example, the Eagles could line up safety Malcolm Jenkins as a nickel cornerback and stick Wolff on the back end. Other options are possible.
The Eagles' safeties are hardly elite but the position looks a lot better than it did last year. Patrick Chung, who was a disaster on the field in 2013, is now back in New England. If Jenkins' great summer is any indication, he figures to be a good starter. Allen looks comfortable out there. Wolff can contribute off the bench. This looks like a solid group.