Saturday, August 1, 2015

State of the Eagles: Safety

While the Eagles finish their offseason program with 10 organized team activities and a three-day mini-camp, The Inquirer will reset the team’s 90-man roster and look at each position heading into July’s training camp. We have already looked at offensive line, tight ends, defensive line, outside linebackers, wide receivers, quarterbacks, inside linebackers, cornerbacks.

State of the Eagles: Safety

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Eagles safety Nate Allen. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Eagles safety Nate Allen. (Matt Rourke/AP)

While the Eagles finish their offseason program with 10 organized team activities and a three-day mini-camp, The Inquirer will reset the team’s 90-man roster and look at each position heading into July’s training camp. We have already looked at offensive linetight endsdefensive lineoutside linebackers, wide receiversquarterbacks, inside linebackers, cornerbacks.

Projected first team

Malcolm Jenkins (6-0, 204), 26, 6th season; Nate Allen (6-1, 210), 26, 5th.

Malcolm Jenkins has been penciled in as a starter from Day 1. The Eagles signed him to a three-year, $16.25 million contract – the most they’ve given a safety since Brian Dawkins left – and will be expecting the sixth-year veteran to step in and immediately upgrade the position. It’s a lot to ask of Jenkins, but the bar has been set fairly low. Patrick Chung and a cast of many others struggled to be consistent safeties for the Eagles after Dawkins left. Jenkins is not of Dawkins’ caliber, but he is a heady player that has some versatility. The Eagles interchange their safeties based on the offense, and Jenkins, a former college cornerback, played both centerfield and in the box for the Saints. He said his role narrowed the last few seasons in New Orleans and that it had something to do with his struggles, particularly in tackling. The Eagles want Jenkins to be the quarterback of the secondary and set coverages.

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Nate Allen just won’t go away. To his credit, he delivered his best season as a pro last year and earned an invite back after the Eagles signed him to a one-year contract in March. Allen was by no means an impact defender in 2013, but he was mostly reliable after a slow start and should benefit from another offseason in Bill Davis’ scheme. The Eagles slotted him as the starter in the spring, but Chip Kelly has said that he expects Earl Wolff to compete with Allen. They’re different players in many regards. Allen is best patrolling the back line of defense, while Wolff likes playing up near the line and making stops. Each safety needs to become well rounded. If the Eagles could combine their talents they’d have one heck of a safety.

Projected second team

Earl Wolff (5-11, 210), 24, 2d; Chris Maragos (5-10, 200), 27, 5th.

Wolff got some valuable playing time when Chung went down last season, but he, too, suffered an injury – a knee sprain – and missed most of the final seven games of the season. There was some question about whether the Eagles were pushing him to return sooner than he felt comfortable with, but Kelly said in May after the draft that he had been impressed with Wolff’s commitment during the offseason workout program. He looks even more muscular than he did a year ago, which shoule help him over the course of a long season. If Allen beats him out – and the opinion here is that he will – the Eagles may want to find some way to get Wolff snaps. It does them no good to have him sit and watch if they see a future starter in the 2013 fifth-round draft pick.

Chris Maragos was brought in specifically to help out on special teams – sort of a Colt Anderson, 2.0. But he may be more adept on defense than Anderson, who was often exposed whenever the Eagles had to dip into their reserve. Playing alongside Earl Thomas and Kim Chancellor in Seattle may have rubbed off some on Maragos, who has some of the same character intangibles as Jenkins.

Others

Keelan Johnson (5-11, 209), 24, 1st; Daytowion Lowe (5-11, 196), 23, rookie; Ed Reynolds (6-1, 207), 22, rookie.

If the Eagles carry five safeties like they did a year ago, Ed Reynolds is the likely last guy on the roster. He’s missed OTAs because he’s yet to graduate from Stanford, but will be in the fold next week at minicamp. He has some ground to make up. If Reynolds can’t compete at this level – fifth round draft picks aren’t always guaranteed roster spots – Keelan Johnson could fill that last spot. The Eagles signed him to their practice squad last September and by the end of season he was called up to the 53-man roster after a series of injuries.

 

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