The second week of Organized Team Activities is in the books at the NovaCare Complex and the start of minicamp and Training Camp are within sight. At this time of the football year, position battles often grab headlines as players go head-to-head for a chance to start. Of course, the nature of the NFL dictates that every player has to constantly compete to keep his starting job, but the Eagles have one position battle in particular that stands out, and it can be found in the secondary.
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Allen re-signed with the Eagles this offseason on a one-year contract and Wolff is beginning his second NFL season after missing some time with a knee injury in 2013, and though their personal circumstances may be different, both players agree that a healthy level of competition benefits the defense as a whole.
“It brings out the best in all of us,” said Allen. “It’s something that you have to deal with every year. They are always bringing in new guys and new faces, and it’s always a competition no matter what the situation is. It’s just going to make us better as a secondary.”
“Last year didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but it feels great to be back out here moving at full speed and competing with the guys,” echoed Wolff. “Every day I come out here and I give it my all.”
Allen and Wolff started six games side-by-side in the Eagles' secondary last season, but with Jenkins added into the mix, there figures to be fewer opportunities for them to be on the field together in 2014. Still, nothing has changed in the way the two interact or in the way that they go about their business.
“Nate and I have a pretty good relationship and friendship,” Wolff explained. “It will probably come down to the preseason, but we’re both going to give it our all, and, basically, may the best man win.”
“He looks good,” Allen said of his second-year position mate. “We’re all jelling together and Earl looks healthy and he looks fast. He’s learned a lot. He’s got that first year under his belt and he’s ready to rumble.”
Wolff broke into the starting lineup in Week 4 against the Denver Broncos and continued to pick up steam as his rookie season progressed. He notched his first-career interception against Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7, but he went down with a knee injury against the Green Bay Packers early on in the Week 10 matchup. Meanwhile, Allen was fortunate enough to stay healthy for the entire season and ended up playing 91 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps.
Head coach Chip Kelly said at the beginning of OTAs that Allen is working with the first-team unit. It was a move that made sense to Wolff, given the combination of him missing time and Allen staying consistent throughout 2013.
“I ended up getting hurt and Nate played pretty well,” Wolff said. “I wasn’t mad the first day when we came back and I saw his name above mine (on the depth chart). He deserved it because I didn’t end the year where I wanted to, so I didn’t deserve to be up there as the number one guy.”
Wolff also explained that his spot on the depth chart, whether it’s at the top or bottom of the list, would never alter his mindset.
“Even if my name was ahead of him, I know that still doesn’t guarantee anything,” said Wolff. “Even if I’m number one on this team, I still want to be the best in this league.
“The type of guy that I am and the type of work ethic that I have, I know what God has blessed me with and I know that I can be one of the best safeties in this league. That’s the way I look at it.”
The competition for the starting safety position will certainly rise as the temperature does in the next few months, but as Allen and Wolff continue to push each other, one thing is for certain: both players are excited about what could be in the second year of the Eagles defense in the 3-4 scheme.
“We’re just going to keep building,” said Allen. “We ended pretty well, obviously not how we wanted to, but we thought we were getting better and better as the season went on, and even up until that playoff game we thought we were getting better and better, and we’re just going to keep building off of that and try to hit the ground running come the first preseason (game).”
“It’s so much easier. There is no thinking now,” said Wolff. “I come out here every day and as soon as the play is called, I can go ahead and dial in. I know exactly what’s going to happen and I know exactly what my job is. Last year, sometimes they would call the play and I’d be thinking about it. For example, when the motion occurred, sometimes I sat back and I thought about it. Now, before the motion occurs, I already know the call for it. It’s much easier and I can’t wait to see what this jump in year two is going to be.”