Earl Wolff And the Eagles’ Safety Picture

Howie Roseman was high on this safety class heading in, and admitted afterwards that “there were a lot of safeties that we wanted in this draft.”

Despite the temptations the Eagles stayed disciplined and watched while 12 safeties came off the board (Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, Matt Elam, John Cyprien, D.J. Swearinger, T.J. McDonald, J.J. Wilcox, Shawn Williams, Duron Harmon, Duke Williams, Shamarko Thomas and Phillip Thomas) and were content to walk away with  the 5-11, 209-pound Earl Wolff, whom they selected in the fifth round with the 136th overall pick.

“For us, Earl Wolff, he’s a combination of speed, athleticism, production at N.C. State,” said Roseman. “We had a chance to work him out. It’s always good to get your hands on guys. He’s an impressive guy. His ability to come right in, contribute on special teams as well while he is learning safety spot and then compete. Explosive player, tough player, productive player in a big time conference. We have some relationship with people at N.C. State and when you talk to them about their team this year they had a disappointing team this year and their defense, he was the leader of that defense.”

One of the contacts at N.C. State is Dana Bible, the former Eagles offensive coordinator who holds the same position now with the Wolfpack. His message to Chip Kelly?

“The first thing he said, he said, ‘Go get him.’ Physical. Explosive. Will really hit you,” said Kelly. “Just the type of guy that will make your team better. He’s a real leader. People are going to follow him.”

Wolff was called the “heart and soul” of the defense by former N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien. He posted over 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons, and has seven forced fumbles over his career. Kelly believed he can play centerfield and in the box.

It will be interesting to see if Wolff can make a legitimate push for playing time his rookie season. Certainly, last year’s starters are guaranteed nothing.

Pro Football Focus has safety rankings from the 2012 season based on overall performance. Of the 88 safeties evaluated, Nate Allen ranked 84th and Kurt Coleman 85th.The Eagles yielded a league-worst 33 touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had an average rating of 99.6 against them. Only Kansas City (99.9) was more generous.

Kelly was asked about Allen in the wake of the Wolff pick.

“We’re encouraged with Nate right now,” he said. “I know John Lovett, our secondary coach, and Billy Davis, our defensive coordinator, are excited to work with him because I know Billy had him as a very high pick coming out and was really intrigued with him when we got here. So far, so good. We’ll see as we continue to go along but I think he’s a guy that we’ve got to see what we can do and get out of Nate, but I think he’s got, obviously, the skill set to be a very good safety in this league.”

The Eagles also added Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips in free agency. Both come in with question marks.

It’s wide open.

Roseman and Kelly did not want to reach in the name of need. As a result, they took just one safety, and waited until the fifth round to do so. They are hoping Wolff makes them look smart.

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  • Brent E. Sulecki

    thats Wolff with 2 f’s

  • Andy

    “It’s always good to get your hands on guys. “

    • Justin

      I laughed when I read that line.

    • eaglepete

      haha, whoops Howie..ummm errr I mean…

    • UKEagle99

      He didn’t stop there…. “He’s an impressive guy. His ability to come….” >_<

  • AndreWaters20

    We’ll see if a change of coaching can get some production out of the players Andy Reid bequeathed to coach Kelly.

  • Geagle

    “Im on the hunt im after you…smell like I sound, Im lost in the ground,and Im Hungry like a wooooooooooooooolff!!!!” lmao


  • Geagle

    Listening to Howie right now live on PE.com, interesting that they tried to trade to trade back in the end of round 3, but no one would give up the pick, we still ended up with Barkley..
    Howie saying he was strongly considering Wolff in round 4, so they sweated him out til the 5th. He says even in the 5th round, Poyer would have been ranked much higher on there board..and they would have had no problem drafting Kruger in round 5 either..
    Howie Made a joke about stealing Logan from the cowboys…actually spadaro asked him about the tweet that came out when we stole Logan “It was a big blow to the Gut of Dallas”, and Howie said, thats what we do around here, kick dallas”

    • Bdawk20

      Not that we are in the Andy Reid era anymore, but every year we hear how great the Eagles did in terms of getting values in their draft. I will believe it when I see it, although 2012 looks like the best job we have done in years.

      • True, the Reid era may be behind us, but the residue is still evident in Howie, the Eraser head now installed as the General Manager and over-seer of Scouts and personnel. That’s still absurd by all accounts.

        There’s not a bigger skeptic than me when it comes to the Eagles and drafting, but this year the strategy was obviously different and welcomed .

        It’s because of the 2013 draft strategy I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. if the Eagles hit on 3 contributors who pay meaningful minutes over the next 5 years, I’ll be satisfied with the strategy and this draft.

      • Geagle

        huh? Every year you hear that the Eagles had a good draft? lol who do you listen to in terms of draft coverage lol…..Who told you we had a good 2011 draft? lol
        Last year was the first year we didnt have headscratches from schools that make you say WHO? betting drafted in the first 4 rounds….
        This year, we drafted a bunch of high charecter kids, from good conferences that played against some good competition. From a value/pick stand point, we can say that the Eagles had a great 2013 draft, but we have to see how thats going to translate before we can actually really judge it….but if you want to compare it to 2011 lol, its already a success!

        • Bdawk20

          You cannot read. Great in terms of getting values, not having a good draft. Meaning, they chose guys in later rounds who were projected in higher rounds. Anyways, here are the draft grades from 2011: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/moving_the_chains/What-theyre-saying-about-the-Eagles-draft.html

          • Ascher Levy

            Read what they said too. They actually liked Watkins and Jarrett picks which didn’t pan out and trashed the pick of Henery, perhaps the only keeper in the group. This proves you can’t judge a draft until much later.

      • Richard Colton

        What’s missing from 2013? the small school head scratchers that sends the ESPN crew scurrying for tape. or the absolute reach in round three.

        I will agree that every Andy Reid draft was fawned over by Peter King. He loved the “trade down and get the player you targeted anyway” lie that Banner told every year.

  • barry_nic

    Went to three NC State games in the last two years, Wolff was pretty good. But Dana Bible, he was little better than when he was on the Eagles, and brought on the hiring of Andy Reid. Wolff played very well against FSU which impressed me. That’s my two cents.

  • eaglepete

    Wolff, Phillips, Allen, Chung may not be all that bad. Allen may benefit from better coaching and better players around him, we shall see. Then with corners, 2 new guys, Boykin and Poyer although I wonder if they are too similar. Marsh floating out there as well. Its a change for sure and dont think it can get worse so only way to go is up. That being said, the lack of DB picks was my only complaint.

    • cliff henny

      not worried if corners are similar, unless the similarity is they cant cover or tackle like the last group.

  • he’s a combination of speed, athleticism, production at N.C. State

    He is. So why was he available in RD5? From what I’ve seen, my guess is bad tape. Seems to consistently get fooled by misdirection and spends a lot of time running his 4.44 the wrong way.

    • JofreyRice

      Well, the bright side is, he’ll fit in really well.

      • Hopefully he’s just the 4th safety this year, because he looks like a project.

        • JofreyRice

          If Chung proves to be more than the backup he was in New England, and Kenny Phillips can stay healthy, I would guess Wolff is going to the bench and STs, no matter what. We had the worst safety tandem in the league last year, so I’m not ready to say he’s a 4th safety, but I agree he’s not going to be a starter.

          I think counting on Chung/Phillips to be the answer, the way they have, by adding a guy that’s not ready to challenge for a starting spot, is negligent. Very displeased with the strategy. I would have liked Wolff better as a second safety in the draft, as opposed to the only one.

          Tip o’ the hat on EJ Manuel’s draft stock, BTW. No way I would have conceived he would rise as far as he did. It’s going to be interesting to see how he develops in Buffalo with Marrone.

          • The Eagles had a bad offense and a bad defense last year. I am not expecting both of those things to be reversed in one offseason. I want to see a spark from the offense, but I think the defense is going to be mediocre at best. If things don’t start to look more promising heading into 2014 then I will get impatient with the new regime. There’s only so much you can do in a year.

          • JofreyRice

            I agree with that, but I think the problems at safety have plagued the team now for multiple years–the defense in 2009-2012 has just been shelled by big plays. I love that they took a flier on Phillips–potential steal–but I think you have to make better backup plans, based on his history. I think it will be a good while before there is as much safety talent in one class as we just saw, and it sticks in my craw that we got about the 7th or 8th best. Vaccaro, Cyprien, Swearinger and Rambo all strike me as guys that could be really special players. I wouldn’t be surpised if Matt Elam was a big time contributor to, just based on the respect I have for Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore system.

            I guess ultimately, Kelly’s bread & butter is the offensive attack. If he can’t concoct something to score on NFL defenses the way he did on college defenses, it’s not really going to matter if we have Polamalu & Reed in their prime playing safety. If the needle is pointing upwards by the end of 2013, as far as Kelly looking like he’s got it figured out, then I won’t mind if they’re losing games 42-35 because of bad safety play.

            What do you think of Ertz? I’m not all that impressed, I have to admit. He’s not the vertical threat Fleener was, and Fleener had a very mediocre rookie season. Fluid route-runner, but that’s kind of the strength of that program, and the TE is really showcased. For as big as he is, not as productive in the redzone as you would have liked. As far as blocking, I don’t see much of a difference from having another WR out there.

            I’m trying to avoid being overly critical here, but I honestly just don’t like much of what they did.

          • If the cards were to fall a different way I think they very well would have addressed safety early. Reid and Vaccaro were obviously not good value at 4th overall and coming around in round 2 they obviously weren’t there. If I had to guess, Cyprien would have been a target at the top of the second. It would have cost us a decent pick to move up with Jax to get him there. The rest I can’t really comment on, they obviously felt Wolff was a better prospect than Rambo.

            I think some of has to do with the fact that Chip and Billy Davis feels he can coach up Nate Allen. When we saw Nate early in his career he should a TON of potential pre-injury. It’s not like Jaiqwan Jarrett in the sense that he’s never showed NFL potential. Post injury well we all have seen how bad it’s been, but the way our corners play, it’s really magnified.

            Just taking Coleman alone off the field is an instant upgrade. With a healthy Phillips and Chung, some fresh rookie blood in Wolff, and Nate Allen trying to prove his worth, I think we’ve created some much needed competition and I think it will improve our safety play. Will it be stellar? I doubt it. But it’ll a refreshing change from automatically handing the job to Coleman and Allen.

            as far as Ertz goes, Don’t a know ton about him but from what I’ve been reading he’s actually a better prospect coming out of school than Fleener. His blocking can be coached up. I think his main draw is his ability to create mis-matches. They’ll line him up everywhere and anywhere. In Chip’s offense, mis-matches are the name of the game.

            I hope he turns out good. I’m a big TE guy. I played TE all through my football career and I’ve always wanted to have a play making TE on the Eagles. I still love my boy Celek but he’s more of a blue chip guy than a play maker.

          • JofreyRice

            Yeah, see, I agree with others that posit Nate Allen’s rookie campaign was a little better in people’s minds than it was in reality. He was definitely hot out of the gate, but I thought he got kind of exposed by the middle of the 2010 season. I agree he showed a lot more potential than Jaiqwuan Jarrett, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear. Nate seems to really lack a basic feel for where he should be, which is very tough to overcome for a safety.

            He’s a far superior athlete, but as far as on-field results, I think he & Coleman are a push. It would be fantastic if he could turn his career around, but like Phillips’ health, I think you need a better backup plan if it doesn’t work out.

            I hope Ertz turns out to be a good player, as well. I do like that his route running is extremely sophisticated at this point. His problems with blocking are not unique by any means, outside of Kelce, none of these TE’s were good blockers. Hard to find guys like Gronk, Jason Witten, and Kyle Rudolph that are as focused on that aspect of the game.

          • theycallmerob

            I would not be surprised if Poyer sees some snaps as a dime CB/3rd safety (akin to the NYG from 2 years ago). I believe he’s further along, development-wise, than Wolff. Just get the feeling his awareness is NFL-ready, and the speed/combine issue held him back alot. Of all the late round picks, I believe he has the best opportunity and talent to contribute right away.

          • JofreyRice

            You could be right about that. I think instincts go a long way for DBs. Like I said, for all the shit I give them, I do like the way Roseman & Crew run the late rounds and UDFA thing, for the most part. Shephard is an exciting UDFA to bring in, and I think there is a chance Knott could be passable ILB depth right away, with a chance to develop. Poyer & Kruger seem like guys that could potentially contribute more than their draft position would suggest. Going back to last year, they nabbed Brown, who has raw NFL running back talent, if not the refinement.

            The key, for me, is rounds 2-5. That’s where they have to get more long term contributors. We’ll see how it shakes out this year, I’m ready for TC to start.

          • GEagle

            Rounds 2-5 are the Key. you are absolutely right that we are usually pretty darn good in the late rounds and UDFA…I’m thrilled to go two drafts in the row, swinging for the fences and taking players with ALL PRO Ceilings in round 1…..Everyone wanted Earl Thomas so I’m not gonna sit here and say that I want Graham, but I always did like Brandon Graham, however I don’t think he ever had ALL PRO Ceiling..I think there is a good chance that Graham ends up seeing a couple probowls, but I don’t see that Elite All Pro, and that’s what we should be trying to find in round 1…Drafting Graham was settling for a lower ceiling, to get a safer player than JPP(and That strategy rubs me the wrong way)…We had a decent amount of first round picks these past 14 years, that have made starting contributions to some good football teams…but I think we didn’t draft nearly enough upper echelon difference makers in round 1..and if that doesn’t change we aren’t going to ever compete for a Super Bowl. I do think there is a chance that some of the players we drafted these past two yea can develope into difference makers, so let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that we have successfully bucked that trend

          • GEagle

            I don’t think Wolff will start in September…I would probably say Poyer is the favorite to start at dime corner in september, and could even be our punt returner. Poyer was such a valuable pick, the Todd Herremans of our secondary…Plays with Swag, yet when he takes his helmet off he flips the switch to humble…
            I think Chung is too hungry, and too experienced to get dethroned by Wolff in September. Wolffs best case scenario would be to earn a spot by midseason(maybe start his first game after the late bye week). I think his worst case scenario is not earnings starting Nod til 2015…But I am confident that sooner or later he will grow into a starting NFL Safety. until then I think we can expect an athletically gifted addition to all of our special teams units….
            Now that we have seen the free agent additions and the draft picks, we should start trying to figure out, how much our ST will improve from last years poor performances. ST is extremely important to chip. It’s going to play a very important roles in our final roster

          • theycallmerob

            I think you nailed it pretty well. Ertz does not need to become an all-pro TE; imagine your basic 2-TE set, with Ertz and Celek, and Casey in the backfield. That’s 3 reliable pass catchers, plus shady, and an uber-athletic line. And all of them have some blocking ability (Ertz will probably improve over the next year or two). I can’t wait to see the play modifications and audibles Kelly devises, in conjunction with our non-committal formations.
            While Ertz may not be the second coming of Witten or Gonzalez or Graham, he will provide Kelly with what he values most: mismatches

          • Phils Goodman

            I am iffy on the Ertz pick. I like going for a big TE because RZ production is the biggest problem on offense, but I don’t think he has more upside than Celek. Maybe a bit more polished as a receiver (definitely as a slot guy) and route-runner, but I don’t see the ability to break tackles or snatch the ball away consistently like a rebounder. I was pretty honed-in on Kelce.

          • JofreyRice

            Was big on Kelce myself, after seeing some of the cutup videos where the Bearcats had him split out wide, inline, and moving around the formation. Mauler in the run game, as well.

          • Yeah, I thought Kelly would fall in love with his versatility.

          • FMWarner

            That’s what I’ve been thinking. You can’t fix everything, and if the safety value isn’t where they wanted it to be, then so be it. It’s not like they passed over safety to get depth at a position we were well-stocked at.

          • cliff henny

            when you have 25 holes, somethings get to be stop-gapped. draft just fell the way this wont be addressed till next yr. wasnt 1 yr fix. rather piece-meal safety for a yr than OL or DL

          • JofreyRice

            I think we’ve had piece meal safeties for quite a few years now. The big plays frustrate me, and I don’t think we’re going to see them stop until they find a solution. Maybe it’s Phillips/Chung, but with the circumstances we got them under, I’d have preferred adding more names into that mix.

        • Geagle

          I cant watch that link til I get out of work…what games of his did you watch? or when was the footage from? 2years ago? last year? early in the season? towards the end of the season?….I still need to see much more of him before Im ready to really speak on him, but most of the experts I heard all mentioned that they wouldnt be surprised to see him start this year….I think the only way to really get a feel for a guy, is watching him in sequential order, from different periods in his career, and try to get a feel how different he looks from one game to the next..how much is he improving? how quickly is he improving…Its hard enough to project how a player is going to transition to the pro’s…Really have to try and get a feel how a player progressed throughout his career….Career Progression is a huge part of what made Lane the 4th pick in the draft. Watch him play in september, and then watch him play in October, and his drastic improvement would jump off the screen to even a blind man…
          Howie says “A guy we strongly considered at the top of the 4th round if we couldnt get Barkley, who will contribute immediately on ST as he develops”… Dana Bible is also someone who’s oppinion we can REALLY trust. He wont BS us, and he strongly endorsed the kid…Starting as a rookie would just be a bonus..but the important part is to have at the very least, a solid quality starting safety 3 years from now….He certainly has the physical ability to be special(lets hope for the best development), and my guess is it doesnt take him 3 years to figure it out…I cant see how getting him in round 5 is anything less than a homerun…getting a quality back up and strong ST contributor in round 5 is a good pick, and I think we are getting more than that…how much more, and how long does it take to develope..who knows?

    • Geagle

      Cossel had a drastically different oppinion. I havent watched much of him, so im just parroting oppinions right now, but it is an oppinion that I do trust…He talked about how he noticed Wolff, watching Tape on the more touted, Amerson…and he would get frustrated watching Amerson at how often he would blow coverages and make mistakes, yet he always kept seeing this Wolff kid, always around the ball, always where he is supposed to be…Cossel raved more about his instinct and cerebral play, than he did about his athletic ability….and thats very exciting to me when talking about such a physically gifted players….
      Why did he fall to round 5? I dunno, but I can offer up some guesses. This was one of the deepest safety classes in a decade. Not every team is looking for the same thing in a safety. Some teams might have a stud safety who can really only play in the box, in that case they would be looking for a cover guy like Glover Quinn, or what Nate Allen was supposed to be. Some teams have a good cover guy who isnt very physical, so a Safety like TJ Macdonald could have apealed more… Ideally Chip wants 2 interchangable safeties, in that regard, Earl Wolff makes a ton of sense. He isnt the best Cover Safety, and he isnt the best in the box safety, but I do think in terms of a safety that can do both, he is probably top 5 in my eyes from this class…but if you are a team with defined in the box safety role, and a defined centerfielder role, I can see how other safeties would have been more appealing….
      There were similar Safety prospects who were bigger and alot of teams place value on it…..It was a real good class, Its not like Earl Wolff blows the safeties drafted ahead of him out of the water, but to be able to draft a stud OT, TE, Versatile Defensive lineman, and a QB first, and still end up with Earl Wolff, Poyer and Kruger…take it and run! lol….;Im a 4-3Under guy, who drools over the Seahawks defense(I always wear my imaginary WHat would seatle do bracelett), so going into the draft, I was more interested in getting that in the box deathbacker, and hoping Phillips could stay healthy to be our Earl Thomas centerfielder…which is why I focused more on other safeties…but since the draft pick, Chip has talked about Ideally wanting to just have a right and a left safety, two interchangable guys so a QB doesnt know which one is in the box, and which one will be in coverage…and if the goal is to find a right and a Left, as oppoesed to Strong and Free, I can see how they would have liked Wolff….although he is extremely gifted Physically, he isnt flashy, and he is more of that gritty throw back type…..but I find it very exciting to get a blend of that old school safety combined with the new school athleticism in Wolff. I think if he was 6’2, he would be a first or 2nd round pick….but when you can literally almost jump the height of your body off of two feet with ease, and you are one of the fastest safeties to come out in the past couple of drafts, Im gladly willing to overlook the fact that he is only 5’11..
      Baldinger can be a blowhard, but he is giving a heckuva interview on PE.com live right now

      • youtu.be/L1Q1n4ZGaVk

        This camera had a good wide angle, so Wolff is on the screen a lot. Watch which direction Wolff goes, and then watch which way the play goes. He appears to guess wrong A LOT, as if he’s falling for the dummy key. This includes run plays and screen passes, so it’s not like they are just throwing away from Wolff because they are so afraid of him.

        • Geagle

          thanks…check it out as soon as I get out of work, and be sure to get back to you…always appreciate links

        • Token

          Well maybe the walter football guy was right. Guy might be a complete retard. You cant survive at safety very long if your dumb. Guess we will see, hope thats not the case.

          But its just crazy they didnt address that position with a high quality prospect. Funny how you see the top teams like SF and BAL not messing around with that position. They used their 1st rounders on safeties didnt they?

          Even if by some miracle Phillips stays healthy, that only solves on safety spot. The other is still a gaping hole.

          Its real hard to find a good safety and they seemingly passed up on one of the more talented classes in some time.

      • dollamakeuholla

        THis Kid looks like a player!!! your right this was a VERY deep safety draft! 12 Safeties went ahead of him! Not that many teams might not need safety help! From the videos i watched on this kid he looks like a player. When he would hit people they went down.

    • Richard Colton

      he’s running the wrong way because he’s the lone Wolff. seriously though, they said the same thing about Trotter – great physical skills but often out of position. At this point, after wandering in the desert for 40 years looking for a Saferty, I’ll take any improvement.

  • xlGmanlx

    I wouldn’t renew my lease if I was some of the players from last year.

  • Sef

    He reads the play right,but his angles aren’t the best in pursuit. I think that’s what you mean. A safety’s first five steps are always backwards so misdirection doesn’t have a tremendous effect on them unless its a reverse or a play of that misdirectional magnitude. Pursuit is always difficult for secondary when your front 7 are getting crushed. You have to manuvear through too much traffic. With that said, there were a couple of plays that caught my eye but for the most part he was in position a lot and wraps as a tackler. He doesn’t sell out incorrectly like Kurt Coleman which is a feast or famine mentality. Angles can be retaught instincts can’t.