The rookies and selected veterans report to Lehigh on Sunday. The finish line for our Training Camp previews is in sight with the last position on defense - safety. It's a position that has been under the microscope for the past couple of seasons. Do the Eagles have the talent and depth in place to fortify the back seven of the defense? Let's take a look at the three biggest questions facing the safeties with the first report date for Training Camp upon us.
1. Will Oshiomogho Atogwe challenge Kurt Coleman for the starting free safety job?
Kurt Coleman keeps finding ways to defy the odds. A seventh-round pick in 2010, Coleman was a starter by the end of his rookie season because of the injury to Nate Allen. Coleman was slated to be the starter in 2011 until the Eagles used a second-round pick on Jaiquawn Jarrett. It appeared as if Jarrett would walk in and take the job from Coleman. That wasn't the case. Coleman was benched for his performance in the first Giants game, but he rebounded and won the job back. He finished the season with a team-best four interceptions and was second with 96 tackles.
After working as the starter opposite Allen all offseason, his first full one as a NFL player, the Eagles signed veteran Oshiomogho Atogwe off the street following the Organized Team Activities. Atogwe has the credentials and experience having been a longtime starter with the Rams. Injuries derailed him in 2011 with the Redskins, but Atogwe has 25 career interceptions and has forced 22 fumbles. He's known as a smart, savvy player. He is 31 years old and has to prove that the injuries are in the past.
Coleman is the starter. Atogwe is certainly here to push Coleman, but also provide quality depth behind both Coleman and Allen. With Atogwe, the Eagles have a security blanket just in case Coleman doesn't prove that he's up to the task of securing the starting job.
2. Is Nate Allen ready to breakout in 2012?
Nate Allen has all of the physical talents needed in order to be a premier safety. Allen's rookie season was ended by a knee injury, which lingered into the start of last season. However, Allen was needed on the field and thrown into action. He responded in his second start of the year with a career performance against the Bills, one in which he recorded a career-high 13 tackles. Allen was a starter the rest of the way and finished with 76 tackles and a pair of interceptions.
This is the year where Allen is expected to take the next step. He's got the prototypical size. He has good range. Allen can pick the ball out of the air. The middle of the defense is already improved with All-Pro middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and top draft pick Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle. Allen has a year of experience playing in coordinator Juan Castillo's scheme. It's time for Allen to step up and show why he was the team's second-round pick in 2010.
3. Will Jaiquawn Jarrett challenge for playing time?
The team's second-round pick in 2011, Jarrett played in 12 games and started two as a rookie including the season finale against Washington. Known as a sound and fundamental tackler at Temple, Jarrett took advantage of the full offseason by spending a vast majority of his offseason in Philadelphia to train in the weight room and study in the film room.
While Coleman thrived in the Organized Team Activities, Jarrett will have his opportunity once the pads go on. Jarrett's road to increased playing time on defense might be a little tougher with the addition of Atogwe. However, Jarrett will get every chance. Now, if Jarrett can't crack the defensive lineup he must make a mark on special teams.
Jarrett was certainly impacted by the lack of spring camps as a rookie. He's had a full offseason. Let's see what he can do.
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