Eagles' D: Who has something to prove?

Rookie Nate Allen is battling for the starting free safety job. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Yesterday, I went over the offense. Today, the defense.

Here are players who have something to prove tonight against the Jaguars. Again, some of them are grouped together for obvious reasons:

Nate Allen (S)/Brandon Graham (DE) - As I said earlier this week, these two rookies have the potential to be difference-makers on the Eagles' defense. Graham should see plenty of action with the first-team nickel and the second-team base defense. Hopefully he gets to the quarterback once or bats down a pass so you all don't think I've been lying about him the last two weeks. Allen's been solid, but he's a guy I'm really looking forward to seeing in game action.

JaMar Chaney/Omar Gaither (LBs) - The rookie and the veteran could be fighting for the same roster spot. I'm not sure there's much Gaither can show the coaching staff at this point. He's been here for four years and the Eagles know what they have. Gaither provides depth and can play multiple positions (weak-side and middle), which adds to his value. Chaney was a seventh-round pick. Can he inspire enough confidence in the coaching staff to earn a spot as the backup to Stewart Bradley?

Keenan Clayton (LB) - I have him penciled in for a roster spot, but I wouldn't say Clayton is a lock. He should see plenty of game action as Akeem Jordan's backup at the SAM linebacker position. Clayton has shown flashes of having good coverage skills at camp.

Kurt Coleman (S) - There might not be a player on the roster looking forward to hitting as much as Coleman. OK, besides Ernie Sims. Coleman is in position to make the team as a backup safety. In practice, he tries to rip the ball out of the offensive player's hands on every play. Let's see how he does with the twos and on special teams.

Ernie Sims (LB) - He's been taking people's heads off at camp. This time around, the offensive players will actually be expecting the contact. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew likely won't see a lot of action, but let's see if Sims is matched up with him in coverage on a play or two.

Quintin Demps (S) - He's had an OK camp, but I wouldn't say he's stood out. Demps will be handling kickoff returns, which adds to his value. On defense, he's in line for a backup safety spot.

Ellis Hobbs (CB) - I didn't go into camp with much confidence in Hobbs, but I'll give him credit. The veteran takes every rep seriously and you can see him trying to get better each and every practice. Hobbs says it's unfair to judge him on last season's performance, so the preseason games are what we'll have to go with.

Trevor Laws (DT) - Going into camp, he was a question mark to even make the team. Now he's running with the first-team nickel. Laws has been good at Lehigh, but he still has a lot to prove after being a non-factor in his first two seasons.

Dimitri Patterson (CB) - I'm not sure exactly how Patterson fits into the cornerback picture, but I think he does fit in somewhere. He's a guy to keep your eye on in the second quarter when the reserves come in.

Darryl Tapp (DL) - The veteran will back up Trent Cole at right defensive end and could see some time rushing from the inside as well. Tough to know what to make of his role based on the last two weeks.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (DL) - The coaches seem to love him, but there haven't been a ton of stand-out moments at camp. I know Sean McDermott wants to line him up all over the place. Don't be surprised if you see Te'o-Nesheim drop back in coverage or shift his place on the line pre-snap. It's only preseason, but McDermott needs to see how the rookie with those things in a game. Te'o-Nesheim will likely play inside with the first-team nickel.

Tracy White (LB) - He's a guy I wouldn't have had on here a week ago, but could the veteran sneak his way onto the roster? White has been teaming up with Gaither in the second-team nickel.


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