“Everything’s open,” said rookie Earl Wolff. “Things are not going to be solidified until we put the pads on and everybody really shows what they can do.”
A fifth-round pick in April’s draft, that was just what Wolff wanted to hear. Nate Allen and Patrick Chung saw the most action with the first team this spring, but Wolff began to mix in with the starters last week.
Chip Kelly’s practices slow down for no one. As soon as he stepped onto the field at the NovaCare Complex, Wolff was facing an up-tempo offense and had to react to players constantly shifting and motioning. That took some getting used to.
“When you’re first learning, you like to lock in: Ok, I’m down [in the box] right now,” Wolff explained. “Then you see a motion or shift, you’re like, ‘Oh man.’ At first, it was tricky. But now I kind of know what to adjust to in certain situations. As fast as we do it, all it’s going to do is help me. It’s going to help me in the games because our offense is fast and does a lot of motions and shifts. I feel like in the game, it’s going to come easy.”
Wolff said the scheme isn’t all that different from the one he played in at N.C. State, but there are always new wrinkles. As a senior, Wolff played in the box a lot, but the Eagles’ safeties are currently lining up left/right, not strong/free. That means both guys will be expected to perform a variety of tasks like covering tight ends, defending the run and playing center field.
Of the seven safeties currently on the roster, Wolff is the only one who has never started an NFL game. Four – Allen, Chung, Kurt Coleman and Kenny Phillips – have at least 25 starts under their belts. So when Wolff has questions, he has plenty of places to find answers.
He remembers Phillips specifically offering a tip about how to play as a force defender, the player responsible for funneling the runner back inside.
“He said, ‘Earl, what will make you a better player is if you know your alignments,'” Wolff recalled. “He said coaches set those alignments to allow you to make better plays. For example, if you’re inside and you have force, then that’s going to be a problem. If you have force, you’re supposed to be outside. He said your alignment means a lot, and it can help you make plays, but it can also mess you up. So that’s what we’re working on now, making sure I know the alignment.”
Safety is probably the most wide-open position on the defense. Wolff is hoping to soak up all the advice, make an impression at training camp and earn some playing time as a rookie.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Here’s my depth chart projection for the Eagles’ offense.
T-Mac offers perspective on Michael Vick and explains why a QB controversy is inevitable.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
DeSean Jackson talked to NFL Network about the Eagles’ QB situation:
“[Michael] Vick and [Nick] Foles have been switching off [with] first team [and] second team. So it is the same thing with them. I have been hearing some things about Vick saying that he wants to know. At the same time, the team wants to know too. We need to go into training camp prepared and know who is going to be our starting quarterback. Whether it is Foles or Vick, I think they would both do a great job and we will be ready for the season.”
Les Bowen of the Daily News offers his thoughts on whether Eagles players are buying in:
How do they feel, deep down, about the individual smoothies and the brusque, frantic practice pace and the request that they get 10 hours of sleep a night? We don’t know. Maybe three years from now, somebody will be telling funny smoothie stories at a banquet.
But one thing that really is clear is that Kelly has the hammer. Anybody that seriously chafes at his methods right now is writing his own ticket out of town, and unless there is a contract dispute, that is something players very rarely wish to do. Generally they prefer the known to the unknown. Their wives and girlfriends don’t like moving (and some players would tell you it’s really hard to move both of ’em!)
We’ll take a look at what we learned about the Eagles’ offense this spring.