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Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Allen to start; Wolff still at the door

By Phil Sheridan

PHILADELPHIA – Nate Allen will start at strong safety for the Philadelphia Eagles against Washington Monday night.

That’s about all that we know for sure. Rookie Earl Wolff, who couldn’t quite beat out Allen for the starting job this summer, is also going to play. He may play as much as, or even more than, Allen.

“I’ll probably play a lot every quarter,” Wolff said. “They just want to see what I can do. The coaches still want to see how I can come in and adjust to a real game.”

Nate Allen
Nate Allen, the last man standing from the Eagles' porous secondary last season, will start at strong safety on Monday night.
Coach Chip Kelly said that Allen is “a little bit ahead of” Wolff.

“Earl’s pushing him,” Kelly said. “He’ll play at safety, too. We’ve just got to get him in the game.”

Purging the 2012 secondary was clearly an offseason priority for Eagles GM Howie Roseman. He let big-money, low-production cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie go. He signed free agents at all four positions.

Three of those free agents – corners Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and free safety Patrick Chung – won starting jobs. The fourth, Kenny Phillips, was released after injuries kept him from competing with Allen.

That leaves Allen as the last man standing from the group that gave up 33 touchdown passes and had just eight interceptions in 2012. Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis gave Wolff every chance to take the job. Neither safety really made a strong case, and the tie, evidently, went to the more experienced player.

That’s not unusual. The Eagles have eased rookie safeties into their starting jobs in the past. Tim Hauck held the job until Damon Moore was ready in 1999 and 2000. Blaine Bishop played until Michael Lewis was up to speed in 2002.

Allen is only 25, two years older than Wolff. He can still hold off the rookie with a strong performance.

“I just go out there and do my job,” Allen said.

Washington provides an interesting first test. In two meetings against the Eagles last season, Robert Griffin III completed 30 of 39 passes and threw for six touchdowns. Obviously, that leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Can the Eagles get it with Allen? Or do they need Wolff to develop into a starter quickly? The competition has continued past the end of training camp and into the regular season.

“I feel like me and Nate, we’re going to get an equal opportunity as far as Monday night,” Wolff said. “Honestly, when I first came here, I wasn’t as comfortable as I am now. The preseason helped a lot. I watch a lot of film. I go out at practice and I recognize formations and I recognize routes. I’m getting more and more comfortable every day.”