Philadelphia Eagles: Better On Defense Heading Into 2015?
By Pat Roach
Oct 5, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles free safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) walks off the field after win over St. Louis Rams at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Rams, 34-28. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Key Additions: None
Key Losses: Nate Allen
I would be lying if I were to pretend that I have any idea whatsoever as to how the safety position will shake out in training camp. After being spurned by Devin McCourty in favor of New England, the Eagles showed little to no interest in any other outside options at Safety, instead opting to seek an in-house solution. The incumbent, Malcolm Jenkins, is firmly entrenched at one starting position, and provides a compelling option, possessing versatility and advanced cover skills in addition to leadership qualities. Meanwhile, the most likely options for his running-mate, by my estimation, figure to look something like this:
1) Earl Wolff: A third year player who’s status with the team is an unknown at this point. After a promising rookie year cut short by injuries, Wolff seemed set to wrestle a starting job away from Nate Allen. For a number of reasons (mainly a series of nagging injuries to Wolff), Allen succeeded in retaining his title, and Wolff went on to have an uninspiring season. Soon after echoes of displeasure surfaced regarding Wolff’s apparent unwillingness to compete, it was revealed that he would undergo season ending surgery on his knee. This displeasure with Wolff may have stemmed from a misdiagnosis that gave the coaching staff the wrong impression, however, Wolff will undeniably be facing an up-hill battle in his fight for a starting gig.
2) Jaylen Watkins: A second year player who performed unevenly in limited action during his rookie season. Until this point, Watkins has competed primarily on the outside, although the coaching staff has shown a propensity to target converted Cornerbacks at Safety, so his fit theoretically makes sense. It’s difficult to project how Watkins may fit at Safety from a mental standpoint, however, it is worth noting that Chip Kelly has stated that he will be in the mix for the job. Regardless of the outcome, it is troubling that a second year converted cornerback is seemingly one of the prime candidates to assume a starting role in the first place.
3) Nolan Carroll: Chip Kelly has said in the past that he envisions Carroll as a Cornerback, but I’d be hard pressed to believe that he’s not a more compelling option than the alternatives: a couple of career special teamers in Prosinski and Maragos, two 6th round rookies, or Ed Reynolds. During his time in Philadelphia, Carroll has demonstrated a willingness to learn multiple positions, and has assumed a few different roles, including that of the dime linebacker. With his experience playing inside and outside in various ways, Carroll appears to provide another option at Safety, albeit not an incredibly inspiring one.
The vacant Safety position leaves the team with a major question mark going into the summer. Nate Allen was merely an average safety while at his best, however, the team did very little to fill the void created by his loss. For this reason, it’s likely that the position will take a step back in 2015, as it is difficult to project any of the aforementioned players as a realistic upgrade. In my opinion, rookie DB Eric Rowe may be the best option, however, the team seems intent on putting him through his paces on the outside.