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Two Cents Worth, And Then Some

As we analyze and offer solutions for the Eagles' 2011 defense, the coaches look for some stability at both safety spots, which have been a source of remarkable change since the preseason began.

Allen, a second-round draft pick last season, just now seems to have some rhythm and confidence in his game and his knee, which is recovering from surgery to repair a torn patellar. He was played very good football as an instant starter at safety last season prior to suffering the injury in the first half of the December 19 miracle win at the Giants. While the Eagles fashioned together a comeback for the ages, Allen was packed in ice in the athletic training room.

Without the benefit of an offseason together, the team's athletic training staff had no first-hand feel for Allen's progress until training camp began. They brought him along slowly, smartly and then paced Allen's play in the preseason. He wasn't there. Not all the way back. Not really that close, actually.

Not until the last week has Allen felt his game is back. He had 13 tackles at Buffalo and moved to the ball better than he had all season. It was good to see, because the Eagles are aching for solutions at safety.

Jarrad Page looked like he might fit the bill at one starting spot, but after a number of missed tackles in Buffalo and a stinger he suffered, Page was removed from the lineup in place of Coleman, who had been the starter at the beginning of the season before bouncing off of Victor Cruz against the Giants. Coleman played physical football, had energy and was around the ball in the fourth quarter on Sunday.

Rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett? He hasn't played. He hasn't had a sniff of the field in the regular season after the Eagles made him a second-round draft pick in April. Clearly, Jarrett hasn't shown the coaches enough to earn the coaches trust, so he isn't playing. Colt Anderson seemed to play well in the preseason, but the Eagles appear to see him more as a special-teams ace than an answer at safety. 

Safety hasn't been the same since Brian Dawkins left as an unrestricted free agent after the 2008 season. Heck, there hasn't been real stability at safety since Dawkins and Michael Zordich started three seasons together in the late 1990s -- Dawkins teamed with Michael Lewis in the mid 2000s, including the Super Bowl season -- and if you want to spin the safety roulette longer than that which you won't find a twosome in a starting tango since the Andre Waters-Wes Hopkins combination in the Buddy Ryan era.

Quintin Mikell teamed with Dawkins a couple of years before Dawkins left, and then Mikell was the singular stable piece until he moved on to St. Louis prior to this season and, well, here we are.

I know a lot of people wonder about linebacker and the revolving door there, and that is understandable. The Eagles need long-term answers at safety, too. You can't have a solid defense without good safeties; they are too easy to isolate and defeat in the passing game, and the days of having a safety in the box solely to fill a gap and stop the run are long gone.

The team has invested two second-round draft picks (Allen and Jarrett) and a seventh-round draft pick (Coleman), as well as a free-agent contract (Page). They need, both now and for the future, some good things to happen here.

It's been a long time since we saw a safety blitz and make a play against an unsuspecting quarterback. Allen (in Detroit) and Coleman (at Washington) had some big moments last year, and the Eagles need more of them now, right now.

Safeties can change the game in the NFL. Some of the best defenses have safeties who make quarterbacks account for their presence on every day. The Eagles are waiting again for that day, what they had when Dawkins was in his prime. Oh, what a huge plus it would be should the safeties start getting their hands on some passes, or make some plays in the running game.

  • Lost in the rubble of the loss in Buffalo was the apparent change in the depth chart at running back, where rookie Dion Lewis ran second behind LeSean McCoy and gained 8 yards on a pair of carries. Ronnie Brown saw fewer snaps than in the previous four games. Interesting. Lewis can really bring it as a running back and can help this offense if he gets the chance.
  • Just so you know, the ESPN report that head coach Andy Reid met with the front office and will consider during the bye week, should the defense play poorly against the Redskins, adding a defensive consultant, is not true. The report is false. Reid is standing behind Juan Castillo, as is everyone in the organization. The defense must improve, and the team must improve in every phase. Castillo has a big game ahead against the powerful running game of the Redskins.
  • The Eagles are 4-1 in their last five games at FedEx Field. Let's hope Eagles fans travel well. That really shouldn't be a question. They always do.
  • I think Michael Vick would love to have back that final play in the first half of Sunday's loss in Buffalo. He held on to the ball too long. He knew the situation and knew he needed to take a quick look and then get rid of the football. Didn't happen as the Eagles wanted, obviously.
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