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Backup Safeties Under The Spotlight

The Eagles are confident in their starting safeties. With Kurt Coleman, the Eagles have a dependable, often overlooked, player who started 13 games in 2011 and led the team with four interceptions. Nate Allen, meanwhile, is entering his second season removed from a knee injury that hampered his progress to begin last season. In the second half of the 2011 season, Allen looked the part of a second-round pick and he's continued in that form throughout the offseason.

But with 10 days until the season opener, the forecast for the backup safety position is still somewhat cloudy. First, there's Oshiomogho Atogwe, the 31-year-old who has 83 games of starting experience. But Atogwe has been hampered by a hamstring injury over the last couple weeks that has held him out of the two most recent preseason games. So with only sparse playing time in the preseason opener under his belt as an Eagle, Atogwe still has something to show the coaches.

Tonight, in the preseason finale, Atogwe is expected to play, according to head coach Andy Reid. That's good news for Atogwe, who has been anxious to compete.

"It's definitely in the plans (to play)," Atogwe said. "Practice is great, but there's nothing like playing in the games. If it's for me to play, I definitely want to be in there."

Likely to be paired with Atogwe throughout tonight's game is Jaiquawn Jarrett, the 2011 second-round pick. Jarrett began the preseason in disappointing fashion, missing tackles against the Pittsburgh Steelers after which he briefly conceded some playing time with the second-team defense. But Jarrett has been praised by defensive coordinator Juan Castillo for the way he has responded to that first game over the last two weeks.

"He is very physical," Castillo said. "We have talked about, after that (first preseason game), (Jarrett) came back and had a very physical practice. He's feeling comfortable at the position, he's making plays, and he continues to get better."

"That's what comes with the territory," Jarrett said of his reaction to that performance in the preseason opener, "sometimes you don't make the plays that you need to make, you go back and look at the film and find out why you didn't make them and then you go back to practice and say, 'This is what you need to work on.'"

While Jarrett continues to learn and fine-tune his knowledge of the defense, he has served of a teacher of sorts for Atogwe, who isn't exactly used to life as a backup.

"It's very humbling," said Atogwe. "You learn a lot being a backup, things you didn't know when you were starting. But it's a wonderful place to be. My lord says humility comes before honor, so I'm thankful to be here, thankful to be able to help who I'm playing with and allow them to ask me.

"(I've learned) that you have to work hard. You have to work harder than the guys out there are doing. You have to do little things to continue to improve. That puts you in better position to get on the field and it really makes you hone your skills even more to the degree than you already have."

Beyond Atogwe and Jarrett, the only other safety on the roster is undrafted rookie Phillip Thomas. Regardless, by Friday night at 9 PM, Jarrett and Atogwe will learn their roster fate. They could both make the team, one of them could make the team, or neither of them could make the team. Chances are, their respective performances tonight will play a significant factor in that decision.

"I haven't thought about it, I'm just taking it one day at a time," said Jarrett. "It's going to be exciting to get out there and have fun and enjoy the game with my teammates."

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