The Eagles hit the practice fields again on Wednesday as they get set for their mile-high matchup with the Denver Broncos. For the second straight day, however, safety Patrick Chung was sidelined. Chung injured his shoulder against Kansas City, and his status for Sunday remains up in the air. If Chung cannot go, the door is wide open for Earl Wolff to step in and make his first NFL start.
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"Every week, I prepare like I'm a starter," Wolff said. "You never know what can happen even when you're not the starter, so I'm preparing even more. I'm out there with the ones and getting reps with them, which is going to help me from a communication standpoint ... When you're out there with them, it just allows you to get a better feel of (the defense)."
If Wolff does indeed get the call on Sunday, he will be thrown directly into the proverbial fire, as Peyton Manning and the number-one ranked scoring offense in the NFL will be lining up on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.
"It's going to be a good opportunity," said Wolff. "(Manning) is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. I have to study even more this week and go even harder in the film room, because you never know what he can do to you. He can pick you apart. He'll sit there and play games with you. I watched the game last Monday and he just made it look so easy. We have to be prepared for anything when it comes to playing against Peyton."
Manning is without question one of the best at his position at reading what the defense gives him and adjusting on the fly. His uncanny way of knowing what the defense is doing, according to Wolff, is what presents the biggest challenge for the Eagles defense.
"That's what makes him one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, how he sits there and does those checks at the line of scrimmage," Wolff explained. "Other quarterbacks do it, but I feel like he's one of the best. … He's been doing it for a long time. He's seen so many different looks. Regardless of what you do, it comes down to us playing our defense and doing our assessments. If we're able to do that, I feel like we'll be okay."
The Eagles got a glimpse of what it will be like to face Manning when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was in Philadelphia for the joint practices during Training Camp and the preseason opener.
"When Tom Brady was here, he was doing that a little bit, but I feel like Peyton is a general out there on the field and he's the best at it," Wolff said. "You have to give him different looks. You can't just sit there and show him what you're going to do or he's going to pick you apart."
As the season has progressed, Wolff has seen his playing time increase. After taking just eight defensive snaps against Washington, the rookie has seen over 40 snaps in each of the last two games. The North Carolina State product feels that he has been making progress as he learns the ins and outs of the NFL.
"I just feel really comfortable out there," said Wolff. "It's not like I'm out there doing a lot of thinking. I'm reacting and actually playing football, which is what got me here. When I first got here, I wasn't really comfortable with everything. I was still moving kind of slow and I wasn't reacting as much. Now as I get more repetitions and I get more plays, I've started to get more comfortable. Now I feel like I'm very comfortable to the point where whenever I do go in and start, I'm going to be ready for the opportunity."
Fellow members of the secondary have already began to notice Wolff's improved play, including Nate Allen, who believes in the rookie's talent.
"He's been great," said Allen. "He's getting that experience under his belt. He's done good things for us and he's ready."
Whether or not Wolff is out there at the start of the game doesn't make much of a difference to him. Either way, he figures to see a lot of playing time against one of the premier quarterbacks who has ever played the game. That would be a scary thought for most rookies, but not for Wolff, who is always ready to compete.
"(Manning) might try to pick on me because I'm a rookie, but I'm ready for whatever he throws at me," Wolff said. "I'm a competitor, so whatever comes at me, I'm ready for it."
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