Safety Position in flux for Philadelphia Eagles
News came out at the Philadelphia Eagles NovaCare Complex during today’s OTAs that Kenny Phillips had potentially re-aggravated a knee injury that has nagged him for much of his otherwise promising career. This is potentially big news for a secondary that has had a complete make over from last season potentially turning over four new starters for the upcoming 2013 campaign. When healthy, Phillips has been a solid player throughout his career for the New York Giants, even starting and playing well in a Super Bowl for the squad on the way to winning on the grandest stage. The problem with Phillips has not been ability for the former first round pick but rather his inability to stay on the field for any substantial amount of time.
In Phillips’ absence Nate Allen has been taking reps with the starters on defense in a tandem with former New England Patriot Patrick Chung. Allen has also been plagued by injuries, but even when healthy he really struggled in Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn‘s Wide 9 scheme last season. A part of this could be due to the changing of schemes in the middle of the season from Castillo to former secondary coach, Todd Bowles, as Allen in spades has shown the requisite skills to play the free safety spot at an effective level. This is a critical year in Allen’s development, and new defensive coordinator Billy Davis‘ scheme should help as he has stated the safeties will have less run responsibilities and can hone in more on the pass where the Eagles got burnt last year so often.
Another man who could emerge is newcomer Earl Wolff. The young man showed at NC State that he could really hit, tackle, and cover in the back end. He will now got added reps in Phillips’ absence at minicamp and in July during training camp when the pads really come on and the bullets start flying to show what he is made of. He may even get substantial playing time if he can beat out incumbent Kurt Coleman for that third or fourth safety position in his first season. While the kid is raw, he has excellent athleticism as shown by his 4.44 40 at the combine, one of the fastest at his position, and his freakish 39 inch vertical leap. Once he learns the nuances of the position he could be one to watch in the secondary as a break out player.
The Eagles have frankly struggled at the safety position ever since Brian Dawkins and the team got into a contract dispute years ago. The fan base has been starving for a player that played with the same type of passion, leadership, and fire in his belly since Dawk left. Wolff is getting better every day and seems to have the athleticism and hitting ability to remind some of a young Dawkins. Maybe for the first time in a long time wide receivers will think twice before going across the middle if he develops into an enforcer in the back end. Wolff idolized Dawkins growing up, but will he emulate him on the field? Time will tell.