The Eagles finished their second week of OTAs this week, and they will practice throughout the next two weeks. After those practices, Chip Kelly will have a better idea of the Eagles roster. But there’s a lot that will happen between now and then.
To get you up to date, The Inquirer is spending two weeks assessing where the Eagles stand at each spot. So far, we’ve looked at offensive line, wide receiver, tight end, quarterback, running back, defensive line, outside linebackers, inside linebackers, and cornerbacks.
Here are safeties:
First team: Nate Allen (6-1, 210), 25, 4th season; Patrick Chung (5-11, 210), 25, 5th season
If you know how this lineup will look, let me know. I went with Allen and Chung because they have been taking snaps with the starters, although Dennis Kelly has been the starting right tackle. The point is, a lot can change between now and the Redskins game.
But Allen and Chung are certainly in contention for the starting safety spots. Allen has underachieved since the team drafted him in the second round in 2010, but that cannot be attributed to a lack of talent. Part of it has been injury – he’s never been able to stay fully healthy – and part of it has been fit. He’s played under three different defensive coordinators. Allen knows he must stay healthy, and he knows he’s running out of chances in Philadelphia. However, he has talent to produce, and Bill Davis liked him coming out of the 2010 draft. This defense is more safety-friendly, and Allen doesn’t expect as many run responsibilities as he’s had in the past. That can help him. He’s a good athlete and a smart person, so it’s a matter of staying health and fitting into the scheme.
As for Chung, he fell out of favor in New England after starting 30 career games with the Patriots. His three-year deal with the Eagles includes $4.25 million guaranteed during the first two seasons, so it doesn’t sound like the former Oregon defensive back was brought in to be a reserve player or simply a special teams ace. That’s money to start, or at least compete to start. He has experience, is in his prime age, and Kelly overlapped with him during two seasons at Oregon. The Eagles targeted him for a reason.
The player who could really add a wrinkle in this mix is Kenny Phillips, who I will address in the next section. If he’s healthy, he could be the best safety on the roster. Kurt Coleman also has starting experience and is trying to win a job.
One point to mention is that the Eagles do not want to use a strong safety or free safety. Rather, they want a left safety and right safety. That way, both spots can be interchangeable, and the offense will deal with different looks on different plays. In theory, it makes sense. But that requires players versatile enough to handle it.
Second team: Kenny Phillips (6-2, 217), 26, 6th season; Kurt Coleman (5-11, 195), 25, 4th season)
Phillips, a former Giants first-round pick, signed a one-year deal with the Eagles that is essentially a “show-me” deal. It’s low risk for the team and potentially high reward for both sides, because if Phillips shows he’s healthy, he’ll be in line for a big payday next offseason. He has that type of talent, but knee injuries have gotten in the way. In fact, the Giants let him leave, which is an alarming sign. They once left Steve Smith leave under similar circumstances, and Smith was not the same player in Philadelphia as he was in North Jersey. The difference is that Phillips has been productive after his major knee injury, but there have still been enough issues that cause concern. The Eagles have slowed Phillips into the rotation, and he has not taken first-team reps in the practices open to reporters. Then again, it’s still May. Phillips can still be a major contributor, and he has the best chance of becoming a difference maker of anyone in the Eagles safety corps.
Coleman filled in with the starters this week when Chung was absent, and he’s trying to prove to the coaches that he’s worthy of starting. That has been the story of Coleman’s career. As a former seventh-round pick, he’s shuffled in and out of the lineup. I don't know if he’ll make the roster, and I think right now he needs to play himself into the mix. But he’s been in that situation before. Coleman does not lack confidence or effort. The question is whether he’s talented enough to make the team over the other safeties. It’ll be intriguing to watch.
Others:Colt Anderson (5-10, 194), 27, 4th season; Earl Wolff (5-11, 209), 23, rookie; David Sims (5-10, 210), 26, 2nd season
Anderson and Wolff will be on the roster. Wolff is a fifth-round pick who the team targeted – they were considered him in the fourth round – and they believe he can play special teams while adjusting to the NFL. Anderson is the best special teams player on the roster, and the Eagles re-signed him for that purpose. Don’t expect him to be much of a factor on defense, but he’s a special teams ace who the organization values.
There was optimism about Sims when the Eagles acquired him last year, but he could never crack the rotation last season. Three new safeties have since been added, so he’ll likely be on the outside looking on cut day unless he impresses the new staff.
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.