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Eagles Hopeful Safety In Solid Shape

Posted Jul 2, 2014

This has been a work in progress since the day Brian Dawkins signed with Denver in free agency in 2009. Are the safety spots now up to par for the Eagles? ...

This has been a work in progress since the day Brian Dawkins signed with Denver in free agency in 2009. Are the safety spots now up to par for the Eagles?

It isn't like the Eagles have ignored the deep secondary for all of these years. They've used high draft picks. They've added pieces in free agency. They've mixed and matched and paired player combinations.

And yet the safety spots have largely been patchwork, although to be fair it's worth noting that Nate Allen has started 54 games in four seasons, lending some stability to the position. Otherwise, the names have come and gone.

Quintin Mikell. Sean Jones. Macho Harris. Kurt Coleman. Patrick Chung. All here and starters for parts or all of seasons, and now all gone.

Allen remains, having signed a one-year contract during free agency following his 2013 season, arguably the best and most consistent for Allen in the NFL. But there are no givens for Allen as the Eagles continue to add competition and find some long-term answers at safety.

What do we know about safety at this point? We know that Malcolm Jenkins, signed as a free agent, is expected to be the "quarterback" of the deep secondary, and that the coaches are pleased with how much he processed during the spring training sessions. Jenkins is off to a good start with the Eagles and is as close to a "sure thing" as the team has in the deep secondary.

Truly, the buzzword is "competition" at safety. Jenkins may be the alpha among the group, but there are a lot of hungry young players chomping at the idea of playing time. Allen isn't about to give up his place as a starter, and to maintain his status, Allen will have to outplay a handful of contenders.

Leading that group is second-year man Earl Wolff, a fifth-round draft pick in 2013 who started six games last season and who showed signs of coming on before a knee injury effectively ended Wolff's progress. Now he's bigger and stronger and more aware of what's expected from the coaching staff. Wolff has made Jenkins his role model, rising early and increasing his study habits and preparation off the field.

Wolff is a wild card here, a young player who has an open forum. Rapid progress would provide a tremendous boost for the secondary and perhaps even unseat the anticipated (from those not making the football decisions, of course) starting duo of Jenkins and Allen. Can Wolff make that huge leap forward in Year 2?

There are others to consider here. Rookie Ed Reynolds has to catch up after missing much of the spring as his Stanford class graduated, and the coaches are eager to see him in pads. Chris Maragos was signed in free agency primarily to perform as a core player on special teams, but he's going to get plenty of reps on defense, too. Keelan Johnson was here last year and has a strong feel for the scheme, and rookie Daytawion Lowe wants to open some eyes in Training Camp.

Maybe, just maybe, some long-term pieces are in place. It's been so many seasons since the Eagles had dominant play at one of the most challenging NFL positions to fill, but by adding Jenkins and Maragos in free agency, by retaining Allen, by using draft picks the last couple of years to bring Wolff and Reynolds on board, the Eagles have some candidates to perform for the long haul.

It's something to watch in Training Camp and in the preseason, for sure. A big step forward at safety would be huge for a defense that hopes most of the pieces are here for a surge right off the bat this season.

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