Safety is very much a position of mystery at this point. There has been no hitting or tackling in the OTAs so judging the holdover players is hard to do. New SS Patrick Chung is a player the team is high on. New FS Kenny Phillips has health questions. Rookie Earl Wolff is learning on the fly.
Jeff McLane wrote an article on Chung and the need for improved tackling by the Safeties. This really is the first order of business. There were coverage breakdowns with the Safeties last year, but many of those were due to schematic issues. As Bill Davis recently pointed out, if a DB has gap responsibility in the run game, how is he supposed to also focus on coverage?
Davis has changed that. DBs have a part in playing the run, but they are not primary run defenders. The gaps are covered by the front seven. That allows the DBs to think coverage first, then run support. Understand that all this takes place in about 2 seconds. Once the DBs have read that it is a run play, they come up quickly in support.
The expectations are more realistic for the DBs in the new system. That should help in a big way. Confidence plays a huge part in whether a DB is a good player. Nate Allen has NFL talent, but his confidence has eroded in a major way since his rookie year of 2010. Kurt Coleman doesn’t have the same confidence issues. He’s simply got physical limitations. The new system should allow both players to function better.
How much better?
That’s the key question. If Allen can get back to playing the way he did as a rookie, he can get his career back on track. He wasn’t a star or great player, but he was a solid young player. Coleman is best suited to be a spot starter and role player. Right now he’s the #3 Safety, a role that he should handle well. When he is on the field, he should be more effective.
It is possible that bad habits have set in permanently with Allen and that he’ll struggle this year, as he did for parts of the last 2 years. Some DBs never bounce back once things start to go wrong.
Kenny Phillips was signed with the hope that he could push Nate Allen or outright win the FS job. Phillips has the size and skills that Davis would love in a FS. That experiment is off to a rocky start, to say the least. Phillips missed some recent practices while trying to take it easy on his knee. He is expected back for this week.
Let’s be honest here. There is a reason the Giants let him walk. Phillips injury history is a major issue. He might be okay this year, but he also might be the next Marlin Jackson. Would any of us really be shocked if he never played a game for the Eagles? I hope that Phillips and the team were being over-cautious last week. I just don’t think we can count on Phillips for anything. If he pans out, great. If not, we’ve got contingency plans.
We haven’t heard much about Earl Wolff this spring. It sounds like he is a typical rookie. I don’t think he’s going to come in and challenge for the FS spot. I think he’s a more natural SS, but beyond that, I just don’t think Wolff is the type of guy who is coming in here to play right away. The first order of business for him is making an impact on STs.
The other 2 guys in the mix are David Sims and Colt Anderson. We’ve heard almost nothing on Sims. He got his feet wet last year. There were some good moments, but more than a few that he’d like to have back. Anderson is a great STer. He can fill in at DB, but isn’t meant to be a starter.
Patrick Chung and Nate Allen are going to have a lot of doubters and that’s fair. There are questions about both players. The Eagles also see the potential in both players. We’ll see what happens once the season gets here.
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One of the interesting notes that Vick had was that Kelly has slowed things down in practice. Chip wants things to be up tempo, but he needs the players to learn. Fast is no good if it doesn’t work. Chip will adjust things. He’s not going to shove his ideas onto the NFL and act as if they are some sacred teachings that must be adhered to or else.
Chip is new to the NFL. He’s teaching the team his systems, but also learning from the players. He’ll adjust his ideas to the team, where he feels that is the smart thing to do.