The Eagles enter their fourth preseason game with certain positions settled and others not. Safety is one of the positions not settled, to the point that head coach Chip Kelly said before Monday's practice it is the hardest decision he has to make and will therefore play all the safeties, except Patrick Chung, in Thursday night's preseason finale against the New York Jets. With Kenny Phillips being released on Sunday, six safeties remain on the roster in: Chung, Nate Allen, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman, David Sims and Earl Wolff.
Allen has been in regular rotation with the first-team defense, but he has not been guaranteed a starting position. The fourth-year safety is still fighting for the job.
"You have to compete every year," Allen said. "Every day you're out there you're competing for a job. ... You have to come out with your 'A' game every day."
Given the circumstances, Allen is approaching Thursday night's contest with the same mentality as if it were a "regular season game." Even so, he is doing his best not to let the pressure get to him because he knows it will inhibit him from playing his best.
"You can't sit there and worry about it and let it make your nerves go crazy and you just go out there and play terribly," Allen said. "You just have to go out there and play ball and do what you do every day."
Rookie Earl Wolff is also vying for the starting safety spot opposite of Chung. The fifth-round draft pick has worked his way into the first-team defense rotation at safety.
"It feels pretty good," Wolff said. "I feel like the coaches have enough confidence in me for me to go in there. Every game I feel like I've gotten better. Right now my goal is just to continue to compete. … I feel like I've learned faster than coaches thought I would. I'm just coming out here every day to compete. I know that I can play at this level and I just want to show that I can."
Wolff got his first taste of game action with the first-team defense against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night. Despite an overall solid performance, there was unfortunately one play that stuck out above the rest. On Jaguars running back Jordan Todman's 63-yard touchdown run, Wolff got too aggressive and took a bad angle as he attempted to step up and make the tackle nearly 20 yards downfield. He missed the tackle, and lost containment as a result, enabling Todman to cut outside to open field and take it the rest of the way for the score.
"The angle I took, I was too aggressive, and I'm not known for taking bad angles," Wolff said. "Basically, I just have to work on that in practice – even though I work on that in practice every day – work on being a little more patient and training my eyes."
In addition to improving his eye discipline, Wolff is focused on being more consistent with his play going into the fourth preseason game.
"I would say consistency is big," Wolff said. "Coming out there and doing my job, not trying to do too much. Just doing my job, that's big."
The secondary as a whole experienced the most turnover of any position group on defense during the offseason, and the unit is still jelling and finding its way. Thursday night's final preseason game against the Jets poses a chance for the defensive backfield to continue its development and determine who belongs in the starting lineup and on the 53-man roster.
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