One of my favorite Brian Dawkins memories is the hit he put on Michael Vick in the 2004 NFC Championship Game. Vick was headed for the end zone with no one in sight, and a green flash appeared across the screen and leveled him to the point that both players were on the ground and took some time to recover. It was one of many hits that Dawkins laid over the years, and his departure, mainly due to Joe Banner’s reluctance to give him the contract he deserved, hurt the Philadelphia Eagles and the city. This past season we saw the void that Dawkins’ absence left behind.
Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Jarrad Page are not really impressive names, are they? Colt Anderson, a standout on special teams, also attempted to fill the position. Last season, the lack of talent at safety was apparent. It looked like Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were speaking a language different from their backfield teammates. Coleman and Allen were consistently out of position. Page spent his time with the team getting bowled over by opposing players. Jarrett barely cracked the roster and was a spectacular failure for a second-round draft pick.
The Eagles are hoping that Earl Wolff will be the answer. He doesn’t even need to live up to the legacy of Dawkins, something impossible to match in the hallways of the NovaCare Complex. He is almost identical in size with the ability to fly to the ball and make plays. All he needs to do is make reads, cover his man and hit people. If he can communicate with Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, he is already a step ahead of last year. Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung are veterans and solid players, but Wolff is the future.
Don’t be surprised if he wins the job in training camp. The largest quality Dawkins bought to the field was his heart. He left it on the field every week. If Wolff can lay it on the line, play with the passion he had in college and hit people whenever possible, he will be embraced by the fans and maybe we can finally see a player emerge from the shadow of No. 20.