This is the first in a series. Throughout the next week or two, we’ll take a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ roster. Today, we start with the safeties.
There was no big splash, but the Eagles made significant moves at safety this offseason with the hopes that a pair of high-quality starters will emerge.
In free agency, they signed ex-Patriots starter Patrick Chung and former Giants first-round pick Kenny Phillips.
Howie Roseman raved about this year’s safety class before the draft. The Eagles didn’t make a move for one of the big names in the early rounds, but they grabbed N.C. State’s Earl Wolff in the fifth.
Returning from last year’s roster are Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and David Sims.
Here’s a complete look at the roster (alphabetical order):
Nate Allen 6-1 210 25 3/38
Colt Anderson 5-10 194 27 3/6
Patrick Chung 5-11 210 25 4/29
Kurt Coleman 5-11 195 24 3/29
Kenny Phillips 6-2 217 26 5/41
David Sims 5-10 210 26 2/1
Earl Wolff 5-11 209 23 0/0
Pencil ’em in: Chung, Wolff, Anderson.
If I had to pick one safety from this group as the most likely starter, it would be Chung. He had a down 2012 season and was benched by Bill Belichick, but he has shown in the past that he’s a starting-caliber player. The Eagles signed him with the belief in that upside.
Wolff was a fifth-round pick and is the most athletic of the group. His 4.44 40 time is the second-fastest among safety prospects in the past three years, and Wolff was a three-year starter at N.C. State. I expect him to get a chance to compete for a starting job right away.
Safety is a tricky position. You can’t put someone back there who doesn’t know what he’s doing because mistakes turn into game-changing plays. So Wolff will have to prove himself worthy of playing time. But given the current makeup of the roster, he has a chance to be an immediate contributor.
Anderson, meanwhile, is the team’s best special teams player. Kelly has given strong indications that special teams will be a major consideration in determining roster spots. For those reasons, I feel comfortable penciling Anderson in.
Fighting for spots: Phillips, Allen, Coleman, Sims.
Phillips is an X-factor. If 100 percent healthy, he’s probably the best safety on the team. Actually, at 80 percent, he might be the best safety on the team. But remember, Phillips agreed to join the Eagles for no guaranteed money. That tells me he didn’t have a lot of other options. It’s hard to believe Phillips is only 26-years-old. His health and effectiveness will be a key storyline to monitor this offseason.
Allen and Coleman are fighting for jobs. It’s as simple as that. Allen is a former second-round pick, but at the end of last year, the coaching staff felt it was better served having Coleman and Anderson on the field instead of him. That is telling. Not all of Allen’s struggles are related to injuries, either. By all accounts, the 25-year-old is a hard worker and a good teammate, but he just hasn’t been productive. Nothing’s out of the question with Allen. He could be starting in Week 1. Or he could be out of a job.
As for Coleman, he’s an option to fill out the roster as a backup. The fourth-year pro doesn’t seem to have the measurables Kelly is looking for. On the flip side, Nnamdi Asomugha is no longer around to blame Coleman for every big play. He has an outside shot of winning a starting job, but Coleman’s best chance at sticking is probably as a reserve/special-teams player.
Sims making the roster would be an upset, barring injuries to the guys ahead of him.
Bottom line? Phillips, Allen and Coleman are likely fighting for one or two spots, depending on whether Chip Kelly keeps four or five safeties.