Nate Allen is taking reps with the first-team defense at the free safety position. Quintin Demps vows to a much-improved player from last season, when he regressed in his second NFL year. Kurt Coleman is more of an unknown, a seventh-round draft pick on whom the Eagles had a much higher draft grade. He has not taken part in the Organized Team Activities and won't until June 9 after Ohio State graduates its 2010 class.
The Eagles aren't rushing out to sign anybody in the wake of Marlin Jackson's injury. Everyone is sick about the torn Achilles tendon suffered on Tuesday. Jackson quickly became a favored face and personality in the NovaCare Complex due to his hard work, his positive attitude and the toughness and resolve he brought to the office every day. The Eagles looked forward to his winner's spirit and his leadership.
But Jackson is gone because of the injury and Allen steps up. And Demps continues on, and the Eagles must pick up the pieces and improve the free safety position from a year ago.
And Allen is the guy on the spot right now.
He has handled the situation with maturity and intelligence. A hard-working young player with elite skills, Allen is going to have the chance, clearly, to win the free safety job. This isn't similar to Macho Harris last year. Harris had never played safety until the Eagles moved him there after the 2009 draft. Allen is a safety. He has been a safety for the last four seasons when he played at South Florida. He was drafted with the intention that some day, and for a very long time, Allen would be the free safety of this defense.
The future belongs to Allen if he is up to the task.
Allen looked great in practice on Wednesday. He is a fluid player, very quick to the football and he seems to have picked up on the defense. But we won't know enough about Allen until the pads go on and the action is live and the defense can really play.
The Eagles are not panicked about the loss of Jackson. It is a disappointment, for sure. He was an inspiration to be on the field so quickly after knee surgery. But it is not meant to be for Jackson, who we all wish the best of luck.
Meanwhile, the on-field attention turns toward Allen, and to Demps. The latter faces a crossroads of a season after his step-back year of 2009. Demps has to seize the moment now, and hold it and help the Eagles as a versatile defensive player and special teams contributor.
Injuries are part of the game, and they have ruined Jackson's career. The Eagles knew the risk they were taking when they signed Jackson. They then drafted Allen and Coleman. Plan B is now Plan A, and maybe Plan B was the plan all along in the big picture of this season. The Eagles drafted Allen to get him on the field.
His time is now.
* NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT *
- Interesting looks that Sean McDermott is using in the spring, including having safeties line up as linebackers and a nickel front that includes Darryl Tapp and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim inside at the tackle spots, with Brandon Graham and Trent Cole on the edges. There is plenty of moving around to be done here. The Eagles are finding out what they have, and what they think they need.
- I love the team speed on defense. Can't wait to see what it looks like in training camp.
- Stewart Bradley has done a superb job in coverage and has shown all the range and mobility he had before his knee injury from last year. A healthy Bradley means so much to the defense. NOTE: Bradley suffered a tweaked left calf on Wednesday. The injury is not believed to be serious.
- Handicapping the cornerbacks ... Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Macho Harris, Dimitri Patterson. But a lot of things can change, with Trevard Lindley and Geoff Pope pushing.
- Mike Bell looks fine after missing practice time with a hamstring tweak.
- Michael Vick has to get some playing time this year. He is too quick, too agile and too ready to be unleashed to sit on the sidelines every game. The Eagles can make him a real threat for the offense.
- No Todd Herremans again at practice on Wednesday, and no word on the severity of his left foot pain. My sense is that it isn't serious, but who really knows?