The Eagles need help at Safety. We all agree on that. Let’s talk for a minute about the position and what needs to happen.
We’ll start by reviewing 2013. Nate Allen had a solid season. Earl Wolff showed good promise as a rookie. Patrick Chung, who I had high hopes for, proved to be a major disappointment. Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson played sparingly and failed to show much on defense. Keelan Johnson just dipped his toe in the water. Impossible to judge him.
If the Eagles re-signed Allen and paired him with Wolff to be the starters in 2014, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But it also wouldn’t be ideal. Allen is coming off the best year of his career.
82 tackled (59 solo) – 1 INT – 1 FF – 1 sack – 6 PDs – 2 TFLs
Allen showed the ability to play in the box or deep. He was good in man coverage. He had some good moments while playing centerfield. Allen made serious progress when you consider he was benched at the end of 2012. Arguably the most important stat of all is that Allen played in all 16 games.
While all of that is encouraging, Allen isn’t much of a playmaker and he’s not exactly a DB that opposing offenses fear. Has Tony Romo or Eli Manning ever said “The first thing I do when I get to the LOS is find Nate Allen.” Can he develop into more of a playmaker? Sure. His self-confidence and the confidence in the defensive system have to be at an all time high. You’re going to make plays when you’re confident and you can attack the ball.
One of the problems with Allen is that he’s not great at anything. Okay size. Okay speed. Okay tackler (after lots of work). Okay instincts. Okay hands. And so on. There is nothing compelling about him. He’s not a ballhawk that needs to be more physical or a run-stuffer that needs to improve in coverage. Allen is okay all around. I wish he was either faster or more instinctive. Good Safeties either anticipate plays or they have the speed to attack and make things happen.
I think there is logic in bringing Allen back since he knows the system and has proven he can be a functional starter. There are some other teams who would love to have a Safety who is a functional starter. If one of those teams overpays for Allen, let him walk.
Earl Wolff showed good promise this year. Let’s start with the stats.
45 tackles (37 solo) – 1 TFL – 1 INT – 5 PDs
Wolff played in 11 games with 6 starts. He was durable in college so hopefully the injury was an anomaly.
Wolff did show the potential to be a good hitter/tackler. I don’t know that he’ll ever be an impact player in terms of physicality, but he’s willing to really get after guys and has some pop. He showed some potential as a cover guy. The mistakes he made looked more based on a lack of experience than a lack of skills. You can teach someone how to cover if he’s got the basic skills and ability.
While Wolff and Allen showed promise this year, let’s not overrate them. This defense could really use a playmaking Safety. It would be nice if QBs had to be nervous about the middle of the field.
I don’t think the Eagles have to go throw a ton of money at Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward. I’d love to see them go after those guys if they think they are a good fit in terms of personality and scheme, but I wouldn’t just hand them a blank check and say “Save us.” There are some other choices in free agency. The team can also add a player early in the draft
The Eagles need to upgrade the position. They need more talent back there. If Allen is re-signed, the team can still spend an early pick. You would then have Allen, Wolff and the rookie compete for 2 jobs. No one should be guaranteed anything.
I’m sure you guys have a ton of questions about Byrd, Ward and draft prospects. I need to do more research so I can offer an informed opinion. I also want to think about Davis past and the scheme as I try to figure out what seems like the best course of action. The days of the pure SS and pure FS are gone. There are no more clearly defined roles.
I would cut Pat Chung. The guy has his moments, but his tackling issues are highly frustrating. This isn’t a guy like Nate Allen who was in a bad system with odd coaching. Chung played for Belichick before coming here. He never played in a system that put him under massive strain and developed bad habits. He got the bad habits all on his own. Playing behind the Wide-9 put Allen in some really tough situations and hurt his development as a player. Chung has a limited ceiling. Allen too, but I think I trust him more based on what I saw this year.
If the Eagles lose Allen in free agency, they might keep Chung around until after the draft. That would give you some insurance in case a nightmare scenario played out and the team didn’t get a Safety until late in the draft. If you add an impact free agent, Chung should be gone. If you keep Allen, Chung should be gone.
The coaches went out of their way to praise Chung. He might be a good guy off the field and very coachable. Heck, maybe he helped Allen turn it around and Wolff develop. That’s not enough going forward. He didn’t make plays and he did make mistakes. That’s a guy I don’t want to keep around.
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#Eagles have signed former Michigan center David Molk to a futures contract. He was a 7th-round pick of the Chargers in 2012
— Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) January 9, 2014
Good move. I liked Molk coming out and he’s a good fit for this blocking system. Good competition for backup C.