Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins

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 NFL Nation's Phil Sheridan examines the three biggest issues facing the Philadelphia Eagles heading into training camp.

Can Nick Foles repeat, even improve on, his 2013 success? A year ago, Foles went into camp trailing Michael Vick in the starting quarterback competition that Vick eventually won. After leading the NFL in passer rating, throwing 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions, Foles has a pretty high bar to clear in his first full season as a starter. It is perfectly reasonable to expect Foles to be further from perfect than he was in 2013. But Foles can do that while still being very productive. If he throws a few more interceptions by taking some risks that also produce more touchdowns or big plays, the Eagles can live with that. Foles could even raise his game to an even higher level. It won't be easy, but with a coach like Chip Kelly, it's not out of the question, either. Foles looked very sharp -- accurate and confident -- during June practices. He seems buoyed, not intimidated or cowed, by being the clear No. 1 QB ahead of Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley. Training camp and the preseason will give everyone a chance to see whether he's making progress or heading toward a major regression. Best guess: Foles will be fine. Not otherworldly, but just fine.

Who will replace DeSean Jackson's production? That became the Eagles' most urgent question after Kelly decided to part ways with the guy who caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Since we have no evidence Kelly is a madman, we have to conclude the coach had reason to believe he could get Jackson's production from other players. Jeremy Maclin was never the big-play guy that Jackson was, but he is a solid receiver who is hugely motivated to prove he can excel after a second ACL tear. Riley Cooper may come back to the pack a bit after his breakout 2013 season, but he also might rise to the occasion after experiencing success. The Eagles' additions are intriguing. Darren Sproles figures to be as versatile and unpredictable under Kelly as he was in New Orleans for Sean Payton. Second-round draft pick Jordan Matthews had people at organized team activities comparing his physique to that of Terrell Owens and could be a star in the future. Meanwhile, tight end Zach Ertz is expected to take that key second-season leap in production and reliability. Would the Eagles have been better with Jackson? Probably. Can they be as successful with strong seasons from Maclin, Sproles, Matthews, Cooper and Ertz? Kelly clearly thinks so.

Did the Eagles do enough to improve their defense? Looked at one way, the answer seems like a big "no." The Eagles didn't go out and sign a star defensive back or draft an elite, quarterback-eating pass-rusher. It would be easier to sell this defense if they had. What the Eagles are counting on is an across-the-board rise in experience and comfort in Bill Davis' defense. That isn't as glittery as marquee free agents or high draft picks, but it may prove to be more reliable than either of those. And there is some foundation for hope. The Eagles' defense really did improve over the course of the 2013 season. It looked a lot better in December than in September, and that is why the Eagles may have more new starters on offense than on defense. The front seven looks like it will be the same as it was at the end of 2013. First-round pick Marcus Smith will play as he proves he's ready, but there is no reason to rush him when Trent Cole is playing as well as he did last season. Malcolm Jenkins is a smart and reliable safety, and that should help the secondary immeasurably. The best guess is the starting cornerbacks return. If not, it will be because Nolan Carroll shows that he is better than one of them.

Overall, the Eagles added a bunch of players who will push last year's starters. If they're better, they'll see the field. If not, it will mean the incumbents have fended off the challenge. Either way, the defense should be better.

Malcolm Jenkins should shore up safety

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward would have been stellar options to shore up the safety position for the Philadelphia Eagles.

But the Eagles went with Malcolm Jenkins.

It’s hard to argue the choice.

Jenkins left the New Orleans Saints and joined the Eagles for three years and $16.5 million. He has the ability to be flexible in most defensive schemes, and that should be beneficial in defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ scheme.

The Eagles have lacked a dependable safety since Brian Dawkins left following the 2008 season. Last season, they ranked last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing nearly 300 yards per game.

Jenkins should make a big difference in altering that statistic.

“It’s just about making the calls and eliminating the dumb mistakes to where you [don’t allow] big plays or blown coverages,” Jenkins told the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal. “That’s where I come in, as far as knowing the defense, making the right calls, and getting everybody lined up so then we can go play fast.”

Even though Jenkins has been in Philadelphia for only a short period of time, he has served as a mentor to the likes of Nate Allen and Earl Wolff. The leadership skills are evident.

“Right now, I have a really good grasp on what the book tells us to do,” Jenkins told the News Journal. “For this formation, we’re playing this coverage, and this formation, it’s this coverage. So now, it’s really how I’m going to match this coverage to these routes, and how am I going to put myself in a position to make a play.”

5 to watch: Nate Allen

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
PHILADELPHIA -- With training camp approaching within weeks, let’s continue our weeklong look at the players with the most to prove, and the most to lose, this summer.

It would have been so easy for Nate Allen to move on. A second-round pick in 2010, Allen surely would have gotten the attention of one of the teams that liked him in that draft. But Allen decided to re-up with the Eagles, choosing a rare chance for some stability after four seasons of almost constant change.

When training camp opens, Allen will be one of the starting safeties. The question is whether he'll still hold that title when the season opens in September.

His main competition will come from his former partner, Earl Wolff. A fifth-round pick last season, Wolff was pressed into the starting lineup last year after Patrick Chung was injured. He stayed there after Chung healed. The reason, you couldn’t help thinking, was that Wolff at least played as if he cared.

Allen intercepted a pass from Aaron Rodgers in his very first game as a rookie in 2010. In four seasons, he has managed to intercept just five more. Allen has been hampered throughout his career by instability in the coaching staff -- a different defensive coordinator every year -- and having to play with some less-than-stellar teammates.

He has suffered, too, from comparisons to the beloved Brian Dawkins. Allen simply isn't that kind of player or person. While Dawkins threw his body and his heart around fearlessly, Allen plays the game in a much more reserved fashion. He is not the big hitter that Dawkins was, but then, that seems to be disappearing from the game in general.

Wolff plays a bit more like the throwback Eagles fans seem to want to watch, but he had a lot to learn after his rookie season. Wolff immediately began studying the approach of veteran Malcolm Jenkins, who signed with the Eagles as a free agent.

Jenkins' leadership will benefit whichever safety winds up starting alongside him. Allen is at a point in his career where he should be providing that kind of leadership himself, but he was ill-served by all the change around him.

This year, for the first time, Allen returns to a familiar defensive scheme run by the same coordinator. He doesn't have to be the steadying influence with Jenkins out there. It could be the year Allen really lives up to his potential, or at last runs out of chances to try.
PHILADELPHIA -- Safety Nate Allen could have moved on, maybe found a more stable situation than what he'd experienced during three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Instead, Allen decided to re-sign with the team that drafted him in the second round in 2010. And that was only possible because, despite the shortcomings in the secondary last season, the Eagles wanted Allen to return.

"This is where I wanted to be," Allen said after Tuesday's minicamp practice. "I didn't know exactly what was going to happen. I knew it wasn't all in my control. They gave me an opportunity to come back and I'm grateful for it."

Allen's rookie year was Sean McDermott's last season as Andy Reid's defensive coordinator. In his second year, Allen played for Juan Castillo, the offensive line coach improbably converted to defensive coordinator. In 2012, Allen played for Castillo at the start of the season and Todd Bowles after Reid jettisoned his most mystifying hire.

So this figures to be Allen's first experience playing in the same defensive system under the same coordinator for a second season in a row. That has to be good.

"He'll play faster and have a lot more impact," defensive backs coach John Lovett said. "Every system is different on how they want you to play certain calls. He has to fit into those. You don't just erase. You develop habits over time. For him, he's had to learn a new system every year. He's very happy because what happened last year was he was shaky in the beginning of the year and he started making more plays by the end of the season."

Allen is running with the first team alongside free agent acquisition Malcolm Jenkins. The Eagles went after Jenkins because he is exactly the smart, tough safety they've been looking for since Brian Dawkins' departure.

The hope was that Allen would be that guy. He was drafted just a couple months after Dawkins left. But Allen's chances to developing into an elite safety were handicapped from the start by the instability in the coaching staff.

Now, with Jenkins here, Allen has a chance just to play ball, without pressure or unrealistic expectations.

"He's one of those guys, you just want him to cut it loose," Jenkins said. "Nate is knowledgeable. He knows what to do. He knows the defense. Always in the right spot. When he sees it, and he does see it, he just needs to cut it loose and let it go. He plays a little cautious at times, but you know he's going to be in the right place at the right time."

And that's just where Allen feels he is after re-signing with the Eagles.

"It just gives you a chance to play your best," Allen said. "You already know the scheme, you can hit the ground running."
PHILADELPHIA -- We didn't really get many answers from the Philadelphia Eagles' recently concluded organized team activities. Going into next week's mandatory minicamp, though, we know enough to ask somewhat better questions.

Matt Barkley or Mark Sanchez? We know Nick Foles will be the No. 1 quarterback, a major development compared to last year's training camp. But the signing of Sanchez to a one-year deal raised as many questions as it answered.

Sanchez has started 62 NFL games and gone to two AFC title games. He is the most accomplished quarterback in camp, and he's only 27. That makes him unlikely to be content to be the long-term backup for Foles. If Foles fails his acid-test season, Sanchez could be the next man up.

And then there's Barkley, who got into a few games as a rookie. His shoulder is healthy now, and he should get an opportunity to outplay Sanchez for the No. 2 spot. Barkley has the confidence to endure another season as the No. 3 QB, but is that really the ideal situation?

How will the wide receivers line up? At present, Riley Cooper is the only one of last year's top three receivers to be in the mix. If Cooper and Jeremy Maclin wind up on the outside, either rookie Jordan Matthews or veteran Brad Smith could become the slot receiver. Or if Matthews has a great summer, Cooper could move to the slot. He has the size for it.

It will be interesting, too, to see how Chip Kelly uses rookie Josh Huff, the third-round pick from Oregon. The Eagles may not have a receiver with the speed or the Pro Bowl appearances of DeSean Jackson, but they certainly have some talent at the position.

How will Kelly use his other offensive weapons? Zach Ertz is going to be on the field. Does that mean Brent Celek, who helped LeSean McCoy lead the NFL in rushing, won't be? Will Kelly use Ertz, rather than a wide receiver, in the slot more often? And what about running back Darren Sproles? What will his role look like?

Earl Wolff or Nate Allen? Malcolm Jenkins will start at one safety spot. Will the Eagles stick with Allen or give Wolff a chance to take a step forward? Allen probably has reached his ceiling. Wolff still has some potential to become a better player. The answer will determine whether the secondary has a chance to be markedly better this season.

What can Marcus Smith do? The first-round pick from Louisville was backing up Connor Barwin in OTAs, but that has more to do with logistics than logic. It is expected Smith will contend for Trent Cole's right outside linebacker job.

The Eagles will be fine with Cole playing a lot this season, as long as Smith develops into a replacement by 2015. But getting some production from Smith in 2014, whether it's from the right or the left side, would be good for everyone.

Alex Henery or Murderleg? Yes, the Eagles signed a rookie free-agent kicker, Carey Spear, with the awesome nickname "Murderleg." No, he's not likely to replace the incumbent.

So let's finish with an answer: Henery. All he needs is a nickname.
PHILADELPHIA -- You learn more about what an NFL team thinks from what it does than from what it says.

The Philadelphia Eagles know they need to improve their defense if they’re going to repeat as NFC East champions and make more noise in the postseason. The Eagles allowed more passing yards per game than any team in the NFL in 2013. That is an obvious area to address.

“I think we can be better than 32 [ranked],” cornerback Cary Williams said. “I think we’re going to be much improved from last season.”

[+] EnlargePhiladelphia's Cary Williams
AP Photo/Michael PerezCary Williams and the Eagles won the NFC East in 2013 despite allowing the most passing yards per game in the NFL.
The Eagles drafted outside linebacker Marcus Smith of Louisville in the first round of last month’s draft. But there’s a real chance Smith won’t start ahead of Trent Cole right away. Indeed, the only definite new starter will be former Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. During OTA practices the past two weeks, 10 of the 11 starters from the end of last year were still at the top of the depth chart.

And that’s how you know what coach Chip Kelly, GM Howie Roseman and defensive coordinator Bill Davis really think. If they believed the defense was simply devoid of talent, they would have done more in free agency to add some. Instead, they appear convinced that it’s more important for the current players to grow within Davis’ 3-4 defensive scheme than to shuffle personnel.

“Overall, the whole defense has grown because we’re more comfortable with what we’re doing,” inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans said.

Last year, Ryans was adjusting to the 3-4 after playing middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. He wound up playing more snaps than any inside linebacker in the NFL in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s because Ryans stayed healthy, but also because Davis desperately needed his awareness and knowledge on the field on every down.

Ryans will likely carry just as heavy a burden in 2014. But the addition of Jenkins will help ease the strain a bit. Jenkins replaces Patrick Chung, who was hampered by injury last year, and rookie Earl Wolff, who replaced Chung as a starter.

“Malcolm is going to be the leader in the back end,” Ryans said. “He’s a guy who gets the guys in the right position. He can make the plays you want to make. He’s a great addition to our secondary.”

That should help the entire secondary play as a cohesive unit. So should some more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Eagles began to identify and develop strong players in their front seven last season. That process should continue and bear fruit in 2014.

Defensive end Cedric Thornton will begin this season as a starter rather than as a curiosity. Bennie Logan will be the nose tackle. Cole will be in his second season as a linebacker after spending 2013 making the transition from defensive end. Ryans, Cole, Connor Barwin and Mychal Kendricks should all be better after playing together for a full season.

Best of all, the defense experienced some success in that first year. The Eagles finished strong, earning the division title with a victory in Dallas in Week 17. Their first-round playoff loss to New Orleans showed them exactly where they need to get better.

“We understand what is expected from us,” Williams said. “We’re going to continue to build off what we did last year. I think we’re on the right path.”

Kelly, Roseman and Davis think the same thing. Their actions this offseason say so.

Morning links: Eagles already ahead

May, 31, 2014
May 31
Reading the coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, just one day before the calendar is ready to flip to June: offers a detailed piece on Brad Smith, who's looking for a bounce-back season after working through injuries. A wide receiver and special teams catalyst, Smith is looking for bigger and better things in 2014.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Zach Berman analyzes how the Eagles are way ahead of where they were in coach Chip Kelly's rookie season.'s Geoff Mosher writes that Mark Sanchez has taken a step forward in terms of being Nick Foles' backup.'s Tim McManus notes how free-agent safety Malcolm Jenkins has become a mentor to second-year pro Earl Wolff.

Eagles offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Philadelphia Eagles' offseason moves.

Best move: The Eagles have lacked a hard-hitting safety since Brian Dawkins left via free agency after the 2008 season. They went out and signed free agent Malcolm Jenkins from the New Orleans Saints. Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward were available, but Jenkins looks to be a perfect fit in the Eagles’ defensive scheme. Jenkins can cover speedy wide receivers, intercept passes and make the big hit. Jenkins’ skills will allow the cornerbacks more freedom, and the entire defense will reap the benefits.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smith
Matt Slocum/AP PhotoTeam president Don Smolenski (left) and coach Chip Kelly present the Eagles' newest LB, Marcus Smith.
Riskiest move: Drafting Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith with the No. 26 pick in the first round has to be questioned. The Eagles easily could have gotten Smith in the second round and possibly later. Smith is a quality pass-rusher who registered 14.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a senior. Can he become a dangerous player in the NFL? Was he worth a first-round pick? Those questions will soon be answered. This much is known: The Eagles needed another quality pass-rusher.

Most surprising move: It has to be the release of three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The Eagles must find a way to replace Jackson’s 82 receptions, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns, not to mention his downfield speed. While the Eagles selected Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews in the second round and Oregon’s Josh Huff in the third round, they’re not at Jackson’s level. If the Eagles get off to a slow start, the decision to cut Jackson will become even more magnified.

Under-the-radar move: Special teams was a problem area last season, but the Eagles recognized it with a number of moves in the offseason. Adding cornerback Nolan Carroll, safety Chris Maragos and linebacker Bryan Braman didn’t light up the headlines, but they’re all quality special-teams players who will automatically enhance that unit. The Eagles’ draft class is unique because the players all have special-teams skills. Look for the Eagles to be much-improved on special teams in 2014.

Ryans says additions can amp up Eagles' D

May, 4, 2014
May 4
DeMeco Ryans saw a Philadelphia Eagles defense which improved steadily throughout last season.

But as the 2014 season inches, the veteran linebacker sees a defense that can get even better.

“Consistently we weren't good on first down, that put us behind the ball a lot,” Ryans told “I look at that, and I look at the film, and I see we can be so much further along on small details [within our scheme] the second time around.”

The Eagles managed 31 takeaways, which ranked tied for second in the NFC, and they went through a terrific nine-game stint where they allowed 21 or fewer points.

In the offseason, the Eagles made some additions, including safety Malcolm Jenkins to shore up the secondary.

“In the offseason you knew they'd make some changes,” Ryans said. “I feel like we got another good safety in Jenkins. ... He's a vocal guy and he's a playmaker.”

Ryans was a playmaker last season with 111 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions.

“I felt really good," Ryans said. "Health-wise, probably one of the best seasons I've had.”

Eagles' Wolff eager to learn from Jenkins

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
As a rookie, Earl Wolff learned a lot from his teammates with the Philadelphia Eagles.

He's already learning from one of his newest teammates.

Since the Eagles gathered last week for informal workouts, Wolff has been modeling himself after free agent safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Jenkins signed with the Eagles in the offseason after a successful stint with the New Orleans Saints.

"I didn't know a lot about him, but I knew of him," Wolff told "It's a great move by the organization. I can learn a lot from him. Actually I kind of sat behind him in the meeting today. He was taking notes, so I was kinda looking at how he was taking notes, and honestly I think I'm going to start sitting beside him. I know he wouldn't mind helping me out. It's great having a veteran player, a team leader. He knows the game like the back of his hand."

Wolff was the 136th overall pick by the Eagles and played quite well as a rookie until he suffered a knee injury Nov. 10 at Green Bay. It caused him to sit out six of the final seven games.

"To get better, to be a whole lot better, to be more comfortable back there," Wolff told of how he plans on improving in 2014. "I'm a hard worker and I have big expectations for myself."

For Malcolm Jenkins, versatility is key

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
The Philadelphia Eagles could have gone a variety of ways at safety when free agency opened.

There was Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward, and both players certainly would have helped immensely. The Eagles decided to sign Malcolm Jenkins to a three-year deal worth a reported $16.25 million.

The addition of Jenkins clearly strengthened the Eagles’ secondary. Jenkins was a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2009, No. 14 overall. His new role will be helping to anchor a secondary, which needed an upgrade.

Safe to say that Jenkins is ready.

“I'm a football junkie,” Jenkins told reporters after being signed by the Eagles. “I can be the quarterback of the defense. When I have the freedom to move around and not be stagnant, that's when I have my best years. I'm not your typical safety. I'm more of that hybrid that the league is moving to with the bigger tight ends, the faster tight ends. You need guys who can be versatile.”

Jenkins’ versatility will be helpful since he has the ability to play deep, in the slot or even cover the tight end. This will allow defensive coordinator Bill Davis to disguise some coverages and blitz schemes.

More than just X’s and O’s, Jenkins was fascinated by coach Chip Kelly and how he turned around the Eagles in just one season. Jenkins wanted to be a part of the transformation.

“I think even before we played them, I think to everybody it was apparent by Week 4 or 5 that there was something different about this team with Chip Kelly, and it caught the attention of a lot of people,” Jenkins told reporters. “So that was my first impression was that he knows how to win, he knows what he’s going to win with and they’re trying to get players that will fit his scheme. Not necessarily the best players, but players that will buy in to what he’s selling. I’ve been a part of winning teams before and that’s where it starts. It starts with good leadership from the top down.”

Jenkins had 68 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions for the Saints last season.

Byrd and Ward may have been better options, but Jenkins is certainly a major improvement.
The Philadelphia Eagles were active in keeping their own players, such as Jeremy Maclin, Jason Kelce and Riley Cooper. They were active in signing free agents, such as safety Malcolm Jenkins, and trading for running back Darren Sproles.

But the biggest move was cutting wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who stayed in the NFC East by signing with the Washington Redskins.

In ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's Grade A draft, he plays general manager for the Eagles, not Howie Roseman or Chip Kelly. What would Mel do as GM?

Find out here. Insider

Insiders give Eagles solid mark

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
ESPN's NFL Insiders like what the Eagles have done thus far in free agency. I'd have to agree, but with an asterisk, because free agency always comes with one.

The Insiders gave the Eagles a B grade -- only six teams received a higher one. So they were definite fans of Philadelphia’s acquisitions: free safety Malcolm Jenkins, strong safety Nate Allen and running back Darren Sproles. Yes, the latter was acquired in a trade, but they lumped him in as an offseason pickup. And the grade was assessed before the Eagles landed backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. But his arrival would only strengthen the B, giving the Eagles what should be a solid backup to Nick Foles.

They also did a good job re-signing their own players, losing only receiver Jason Avant. So their strategy thus far has been sound. Hence the B grade.

"They are set up to take the best defensive player available throughout the entire draft. That is how I look at it," said former NFL scout Matt Williamson, now ESPN’s scout.

Jenkins should be an improvement, but how much of one? He was up-and-down in New Orleans, who opted to sign safety Jairus Byrd instead of retaining Jenkins. But, as Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said Tuesday, Eagles coach Chip Kelly knows what Byrd can do having coached him at Oregon. But the Saints know Jenkins and opted for the more expensive Byrd. Still, the Eagles liked Jenkins’ versatility and that should help. But he needs to play more consistent.

Sproles is a big one, too. He potentially makes the Eagles’ offense even more dangerous and does not have to duplicate, say, his 2011 success. The Eagles don’t need him to, not with their other weapons. They just need him to be a playmaker when he does get the ball. Sproles still looked spry this past season, albeit with fewer chances. The big question: What does he have left?

“There are some down there in New Orleans who thought Darren's best days were long behind him and the wall was approaching faster than outsiders think,” said ESPN Insider Louis Riddick, the former Eagles director of pro personnel. “They made a calculated bet, and we'll see which team is right there. You just know the Saints know more about him than anybody else knows about him."
So far the Philadelphia Eagles have re-signed key their own players, such as Jason Kelce, Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Nate Allen, and added pieces like Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll.

They have not, however, added any pieces to help the pass rush.

[+] EnlargeTrent Cole
AP Photo/Michael PerezTrent Cole led the Eagles in sacks last season, but the team's pass rush could use reinforcements.
The Eagles recorded 37 sacks in 2013, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Trent Cole led the team with eight sacks. Connor Barwin had five and three players -- DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry -- had four apiece.

"It's hard to find pass rushers, especially on the open market," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in this Philadelphia Daily News story. "There aren't a lot of teams letting them go. And then you look at the draft and where those guys go, they go high.

"Certainly, you want to continue to add pass rushers. But we feel we have some guys we think can rush the passer and fit what we're doing at the outside linebacker position."

Philadelphia had interest in DeMarcus Ware, and the Cowboys were not keen on possibly seeing their all-time leader in sacks twice a year, but the Denver Broncos swooped in with an offer Ware could not refuse ($20 million guaranteed).

In free agency, Shaun Phillips has 3-4 experience from his time with the San Diego Chargers, but the pickings are thin.

As the Eagles move into their second year in the 3-4 scheme, they will have a better feel for what they want in an outside linebacker. Projecting a college defensive end to outside linebacker in a 3-4 is never easy, but it is something the Pittsburgh Steelers have excelled at for years.

The two best in this year's draft, Buffalo's Khalil Mack and UCLA's Anthony Barr, figure to be gone by the time the Eagles pick in the first round.

In a division with quarterbacks such as Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III, finding pass rushers is more important than pass defenders.

Nate Allen not looking for handouts

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
From the time he arrived, Nate Allen felt the pressure. He's no longer the answer for the Eagles' safety position, but he still hopes to be part of the solution. The Eagles might not be counting on it, but they clearly haven't given up on him either, having re-signed him to a one-year deal.

Allen started every game last season, but he could be challenged this year by second-year Earl Wolff. Or, perhaps, the Eagles could draft a safety though they don't have to do so now. But Allen is used to the pressure, having felt it when he arrived in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Eagles hope that this offseason they've finally started to solve a position that has vexed them ever since Brian Dawkins departed in 2009.

"That pressure, that was there, right when I came in. Everybody was saying, 'You've got big shoes to fill,' [meaning] Brian Dawkins. But like I've said from Day 1, I'm not B-Dawk. He's a future Hall of Famer," Allen told Philadelphia reporters during a break from working out at NovaCare. "I'm going to be Nate and play my game and not put any more added pressure on myself, and just go out and play football."

Allen said he wasn't worried about the free-agent process and compared it to draft day. He said he had expressed his feelings about wanting to return and then he let the market develop. There wasn't a strong demand for him elsewhere, so he opted for the one-year deal with the Eagles, for whom he has started 54 of 59 games he's played since joining the team.

"I'm just going to try to get better this year and improve, whatever I can do to help the team win,” Allen said. “I wouldn't want anything just handed to me. I'm a pretty simple dude, so any amount of money I get is good for me. A lot of times, it's not even about money. I'm just happy to be back here, in a system I'm comfortable in. I've been in Philly for four years. It's all a blessing.

“I just kind of stepped back and let everything fall into place. Knew that at the end of the day, if it was meant for me to be here, I'd be back."