For the second straight year, the Eagles invested a second-round draft pick on the safety position. Will a rookie start at the position for a third straight year?
1. Will Nate Allen be ready to return to the field?
Before the work stoppage, the answer to this question would have been that the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for last September would be ready for the start of the season. Allen ruptured the patellar tendon in his knee in the December win over the Giants that will forever be remembered as the Miracle at the New Meadowlands. In a recent interview done at IMG Academy in Florida where he trained during this offseason, the intro to the article stated that the injury was now healed. Of course, we're not going to be able to see first-hand until training camp gets underway. Allen showed a lot of potential as a rookie posting 59 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and a forced fumble. Allen's range and ability to generate turnovers will certainly be welcomed in Juan Castillo's new scheme.
2. Do the Eagles want Jaiquawn Jarrett to be the opening day starter?
It would be asking a lot of the rookie second-round pick, but it's certainly not impossible. Last year's starter Quintin Mikell is set to become a free agent. Kurt Coleman will certainly have something to say about this, but Coleman should be an example of why Jarrett could be the starter. Coleman missed most of the OTAs last year due to a late graduation date at Ohio State. However, he was able to make up the missed time in training camp and earned a spot on the team. Certainly, that's much different than being asked to start for a Super Bowl contender. Coleman did take over after Allen's season-ending knee injury and was the starter alongside Mikell for the playoff loss to Green Bay.
Also, don't forget that Castillo has insisted on simplifying the defense. Jarrett has extensive experience playing the position all the way back from his high school days. Castillo has specifically said that some of Temple's defense will translate into the Eagles' scheme which can also help speed up the learning process. The Eagles don't want to see a second-round pick be a non-factor. If Jarrett's football IQ is as high as head coach Andy Reid said it was just after the draft, the Eagles are going to want to see Jarrett push for a starting job.
3. Can Marlin Jackson be a factor?
You likely forgot that in the post-draft OTAs last season, Marlin Jackson was the first-team free safety. However, Jackson ruptured his Achilles tendon during a workout in the indoor facility and his 2010 season was over. He has landed on injured reserve in each of the past three seasons. When the Eagles signed him last offseason, it was a calculated risk. Jackson is under contract for next season and remains a low-risk, high-reward possibility. A former first-round pick, Jackson has experience at both cornerback and safety. He's played in 62 career games including playoffs and has over 300 career tackles and four interceptions. He also has a Super Bowl ring, which he was a huge part of as he picked off Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to seal an incredible AFC title win back in the 2006 season. If Jackson can prove that he's healthy, he might be a good, veteran presence on the team especially with the team going through this unusual offseason.