Eagles Wake-Up Call: Assessing the Safety Situation

Earl WolffHowie Roseman stood on the field at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. and was perfectly honest about the difficulties he’d had in finding players at one specific position.

“To me, that’s the hardest position to evaluate in college football is safeties,” Roseman said back in January at the Senior Bowl. “The guys that used to be the most explosive athletes and were playing in the back end, they’re going to play corner because they feel like maybe at corner, they can play 10 years. You look at the franchise tag numbers, the corner position is higher than the safety position. That is going to be the constant struggle. When you talk to people around the league, it’s hard to find safeties.”

Roseman wasn’t lying. And Sunday’s release of Kenny Phillips served as just another reminder of how this franchise has struggled to address the safety position since it lost Brian Dawkins back in 2009.

That year, Quintin Mikell, Macho Harris, Sean Jones and Quintin Demps all saw snaps. Mikell was easily the best of the group.

In 2010, it was Mikell, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Jamar Adams.

2011? Coleman, Allen, Jarrad Page and Jaiquawn Jarrett.

And last year, Coleman, Allen, Anderson and David Sims.

Eleven guys in four seasons. None good enough to be penciled in to the starting lineup in 2013.

The position has changed, as teams expect versatility from their safeties. The athleticism and cover skills to match up with slot receivers. The size to take on tight ends, play the run and be an enforcer over the middle. The speed to play center field and serve as the last line of defense.

Teams around the league are having trouble finding suitable options, so it’s unlikely the Eagles find legitimate help when cuts are made in the next week. There’s been a little buzz about Bills safety Jairus Byrd, but it still seems unlikely that he gets dealt. Byrd is reportedly looking to become the highest-paid safety in the league.

On the current roster, it looks like Patrick Chung will start at one spot. Nate Allen is the favorite to run with Chung, but he’s entrenched firmly in “believe it when we see it” territory. Allen has shown little this summer to suggest he’s suddenly ready to make the leap.

Rookie Earl Wolff rotated in with Allen on Saturday, but might not be ready. If the coaches feel the competition is close, Wolff could get the nod. Or he could get a shot later in the season.

Chip Kelly has placed an emphasis on special teams, and Colt Anderson is the team’s best special-teams player. That should be enough to earn him a roster spot. Kurt Coleman isn’t a bad backup option, but he’s on the bubble. And David Sims is likely a longshot.

Another year where fans will likely watch on Sundays and hope for an offseason upgrade. There’s a good possibility that next January in Mobile, Roseman will be answering the same question once again.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles cut Phillips and Jamar Chaney yesterday.

The Birds also let 10 other players go.

The No-22 breakdown of what we saw from the offense vs. Jacksonville.

Good stuff from T-Mac on why the offense looked different.

Kelly said the Eagles were their own worst enemy Saturday.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Things do not look good for former Eagle Kevin Kolb:

 

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers some day-after thoughts on Michael Vick’s performance:

One of the areas where Vick made things worse is his desire for bigger chunks of yards. I re-watched the 1st quarter last night and there were several chances for him to check the ball down. Vick instead threw the ball to intermediate targets. There is no question that Vick was holding onto the ball longer last night. Maybe Vick wanted to put on a show after being named the starter. I don’t know. He needs to back to the previous games and play within himself and within the offense. Keep the ball moving and the chunk plays will come.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly and check out practice at the Linc.

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  • nicksaenz1

    @Cliff Henry…. remember playing armchair GM last week and I joked around saying that because EJ was a bad pick that the Bills should take Foles and a 4th for Jairus Byrd? Well, does Kolb going down make their front office open up to the possibility? As a Foles guy, it’s hard to offer him up, but I doubt Barkley draws any real interest. (Yes, I know this won’t actually happen)

    Edit: The Bills signed Leinart and some dude Thad Lewis. So the door is still open.

  • Media Mike

    Although a lot of folks might say that Howie is simply making excuses to explain the failure of the Eagles to draft a decent safety, the complete and total lack of safety talent in the NFL is astounding. Look at the depth chart of the starting safety population in the NFC East. AFC East. Keep going! More teams than not, have an embarrassing lack of talent at safety.

    • RIP illa

      Safety play may be bad as a whole in the NFL, but that, perhaps, can be attributed to rule changes making the position easily exploitable for OCs. I’m interested to see if the overall play of safeties improves, in the future, w/ the influx from this past draft class.

      Still though, Howie’s track record is what it is. To continually get, seemingly, the worst of the worst or the bottom tier on a consistent basis is inexcusable. I know it’s difficult, but it’s his job. Bottom line is he needs to improve and improve that position on this team. So yes it does sound like he’s making excuses. Actually, unless that quote is followed by ‘but I have to do better’, or something along those lines then all it is, is an excuse.

    • GoBirds1

      This draft was loaded with safety talent. And the one we took is a bum. If you look at his college tape you will see the same thing you saw I. The game. Over run the ball carrier and take bad angles.

  • jon h

    Isn’t evaluating talent Howie’s #1 job? I don’t think everyone has a hole at safety. There are good ones out there, but he just can’t find them. They selected Nate Allen way too high and that kid from Temple who isn’t even on the team – they wasted a #2 on him. How about hiring a guy like Dawkins to work with the current safeties and help us find one that can get the job done?

    • KimbaFuzz

      I wonder if Dawk would take that job.

  • evanphilly

    Shame about Kolb, generally seems like one of those ‘bad things happen to a swell guy’ type of deal. Hope he realizes that his personal health is > than football.

    Eagles should have Earl Thomas on the roster, but good ‘ol Andy Reid needed the under-sized Defensive End with a quick motor.

    • Kushan Patel

      At the same time, who knows if Earl Thomas would have even turned out to be the same player he is now had he been drafted by the Eagles. Castillo’s/Washburn’s scheme would probably have destroyed that kid’s confidence forever and we probably would have had another “Nate Allen” on our hands. Ugh, I’m still bitter about the past couple of years..

      • NickS1

        While I agree that he would have been misused, he’s still a superior talent compared to Allen.

  • Hasan Currie

    Brandon Graham over Earl Thomas hurt us. Putting greater value in one position over another got us here in this safety dilema!

    • Cyrus Robinson

      Everyone knows that the most important thing for any team’s success, the foundation for all championships, is having endless undersized, high-motor fastballs. That’s Football 101.
      Step 1: Get a bunch of fastballs
      Step 2: Spread em wide on the line
      Step 3: Collect championship rings

  • Joeknowsnada

    And Howie baby has just explained why, when a first-round safety talent is out there, you go and get that guy (Earl Thomas, etc.) You don’t mess around with guys who “might be” good enough. You go after the “proven” guys in the draft, or, at least, the “most likely to succeed” guys, not the Nate Allens of the world. We decided not to, now you see what happens when we think we are smarter than we are. Now, Nate could wake up tomorrow and get it going, finally, but, it’s unlikely. So, Howie, let’s draft a top guy and get on with it, because this just ain’t workin’!

    • B-West

      IMO, the person(s) responsible for the Graham over Thomas decision and the Nate Allen pick have moved on. I do not believe, as it has been publicly noted, that Howie had (edit) the hammer during that draft.

      On Brandon Graham… It seems there is still a possibility that he is a pretty good player. He’s had some bad injury luck and been caught up in some tough situations. He flashed some potential as a rookie. Then the knee injury, which I think really halted his growth headed into his 2nd season. And in his 3rd season he got caught up in Jimmy Washburn’s nonsense. Now hes dealing with a switch to OLB.

      PFF had an article on him this offseason, outlining how effective he has been when he is finally given some snaps.

      https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/06/13/pass-rusher-profile-carlos-dunlap-and-brandon-graham/

  • KimbaFuzz

    I really don’t understand why the Eagles didn’t go after Bernard Pollard.

    • NickS1

      He’s limited in coverage. He worked so well with Ed Reed because Reed was everywhere while Pollard was able to focus on being the enforcer/big hitter. A role he does extremely well, might I add.

  • Ty

    One thing that really does blow my mind is how Nate Allen is still here. Its not a personal vendetta against him , but in 4 seasons , he has only really had 1 small bright spot. Meanwhile , the guy we spent a number 2 pick on , was only here for a year and is now starting for another team in the NFL. I want to know who made the cut of Jaiquawn Jarrett because imo , we did not give him enough time or a fair shot when you compare how long Allen has been here.

    Now , on another note of finding a saftey to play alongside Chung – Quinten Mikell is actually still a free agent. I believe Kherry Rhodes is also out there although I think he may have an injury issue. Signing someone like one of these guys to a 1 or 2 yr deal would not make me mad. I think what NEEDS to happen is , Wolff needs to start. Play through his ups and downs , just like youve been doing with Nate the past 3 years and at least give him a fair shot. If nothing else , Wolff is at least a better tackler , and a more physical player.

    • RIP illa

      He’s still here cause he cannot be evaluated as if he’s been here for 4 years only 3. He got injured wk 13 of his rookie year and he played well. So then 2011 was a wash, although he played, he was nowhere near being 100%. Then last season and the wide 9 which didn’t do him any favors (but should not be used as an excuse). So the organization is giving him another chance to see if he can actually play or if they are going to let him walk. This year is the last in his contract and he’s not going to be given any room for excuses. Plus he’s 6’1 210 and extremely athletic. If he had the mind and physicality of say Ryan Clark, he’d be the perfect safety!

      • Absecon

        Right on, RIP! Allen should start the season, and let the chips fall from there. If he can’t cut it, then you start Wolff. This team has a lot more holes/problems then saftey play right now, and that seems to be overlooked by folks this preseason. Tommy Lawler seems to be the only voice of reason these days. Wait till the dang season gets going before you get your panties all in a wad over who’s the saftey. If you’re watching the same team I am right now, there’s a lot more to be concerned about…

        • 1972

          he hasn’t CUT IT, the last 3 years. what makes you thin he can now? Cut our losses, the guy stinks!! period

          • RIP illa

            Come on man. Cut him and put in who??? Let me guess Wolff. That may happen down the line, if Allen’s play deteriorates, but it’s not a viable option now. Plus Allen has been very responsible in his assignments this preseason. So you’re gonna cut him when he’s actually doing what he needs to do??? Ridiculous! And I’m not even a Allen fan.

        • #7

          We have no choice but to start Nate Allen unfortunately. I like Coleman better than both of our starters myself. At least he tries to stick his nose in there

          • GoBirds1

            Kurt I have been trucked againColeman is your guy. That’s why you comeacross as an idiot.

          • #7

            Why don’t you learn how to read first before you reply little one

    • Adam

      Jarrett starting in NY doesn’t mean he’s good, it means their safeties are that bad. if you watched Jarrett in his time here he was complete liability and a terrible football player. Rhodes is asking for too much and at this point in his career Mikell wouldn’t be an much of an upgrade over the other two guys. Eagles aren’t in the business of over paying for old talent just because they’re weak at the position. Not saying that’s a good thing or bad thing, that’s just how the operate.

      • Ty

        And our safties are that much better???? Because if they were , we wouldnt be having this conversation. Jarret is better than most of the safties on our team, which isnt saying much , buts its not saying much about our guys either.

    • Cyrus Robinson

      In that case look for the Eagles to attack him with speed because Jarret is too slow for the NFL. If he doesn’t take the perfect angle on a speed receiver or back, it’s 6 points.

      • RIP illa

        This is true. But attack w/ who? We have only Desean as a legit threat to take it to the house. Damaris can if he has enough room between himself and the trailing defender, or else he’ll get caught from behind. And Milliner and Cromartie aren’t exactly slow either. So even if we try to target him all he has to really do is hold up the runner or make him break speed, if not make the tackle. Unless he pulls a Coleman and takes out his own guys.

        And this notion that’s being out out that he’s still the same terrible player he was two years ago is very narrow minded. Maybe he has improved his game enough to earn a starting spot in the league. Maybe the Jets are just that bad at the position…who knows as of now. All I know is that it’s ridiculous to dismiss a young player who we have not observed in a year or so who has entered a new situation, w/ different coaching.

        Sorry…I know you didn’t imply that last part.

  • Anon

    It’s not that hard — we are just generally bad at picking defensive players and we don’t prioritize the position. There were good safeties in FA, there were good safeties in the draft, we just didn’t get them. Maybe we just need someone that can evaluate the talent. Maybe they can snag someone from SEA.

    • RIP illa

      I’m not feeling Seattle for a safety, but everybody’s hoping we should look to them for a CB.

    • Kushan Patel

      This is where Tom Gamble comes into play. Let’s hope he can find guys like Gholdson and Whitner..

    • All Things Bad@ss

      Really like what I’m hearing/seeing from that rookie Vaccaro kid in New Orleans. They seem to really cherish the safety position just like we USED to. I’m sure Lane will pay huge dividends down the line but we really do need a smashmouth safety with a bad attitude, and that kid seems to have it.

  • usmcnole

    I almost didn’t read this article because its so damn depressing. The curse of Bdawk…

  • Absecon

    Move on from this, people! Let the new coaches do their job, and wait until you have a real reason to whine about who’s not playing well. My guess is it won’t be focused on safety play. They become an issue when the rest of your D is not doing their jobs. Wolff can be developed just fine as a backup his rookie year until it’s shown in actual games that Allen hasn’t improved in the new scheme. If you were a coach on the Eagles this year (which I’m pretty sure none of you are), why would you play a rookie from day one when he’s not a 1st round draft pick? Seriously, when your arse is on the line, why would you not want to see what Allen can do this year when he’s not the one screwing up in the preseason games? And most of all, after the Eagles screwed him the past two years with the coaching and management malpractice that went on around him, they owe him a shot at a scheme that is more suited to his style of play. I’ll bet the tune changes if he gets a few picks early on. That is the role of a “centerfielder” safety, BTW. How many balls have been thrown over the D this preseason like the last two years? Now teams are only running through them, which also took place the last two years. Seems to me Allen has already been a part of an improved pass defense. You might start asking questions about stopping the run with the front seven….

  • Scott J610

    Since Howie has such a hard time evaluating safeties, he should let someone els do it, or watch ESPN.

  • Scott J610

    For some reason I feel if the Eagles did draft Earl Thomas he would have been a bust for us.

    • NickS1

      He certainly would have been misused.

  • EaglePete

    Everyone looking for some magic off the scrap heap is dreaming. Sure there is some depth on teams but I wouldnt expect much regardless.

    • RIP illa

      I doubt too many people believe that we are going to get a starting safety through roster trim downs…but hey you never know. The problem and what I hope most people are looking for, is that we need our secondary depth drastically improved. That’s at, both CB and S. As far as saftey, we only have 3 legitimate safeties on the roster. Allen, Chung, Wolff. So we need another one. And yes Anderson is on the roster, but and upgrade over him would definitely be nice. Most people are just venting their frustration.

  • #7

    Man…..our safeties are terrible. Not sure who would be worth picking up after cuts.
    SMH

  • GiveMeABreak

    I would say Howie has had problems with more than just safeties. His LB picks have been horrendous (Matthews, Rolle, Clayton, Lloyd), as have his CB picks (Lindley & Marsh), his DL picks (Sapp & Nesheim) and his 1st big OL pick (Watkins) can’t play. We have a second-rate GM and second-rate talent (mostly, there are some notable exceptions). We won’t win a Super Bowl any time soon but Jeffie makes more money every year off the team.

    • RIP illa

      Yeah I’m not really buying the excuse that Howie had nothing to do w/ the drafts before 2012. I mean if I were to buy into Lurie’s narrative then that means our GM for all those years was a GM by name only and a puppet. That doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence. Which ever side is taken is not a good look for Howie. Either you’ve been incompetent all these years…or…you’ve been a gutless, yes man, little B, who was never trusted by your peers and bosses to do the job in which you hold the title. Even after years of disappointing miss, after miss, after miss!!!

  • Adam

    No, he’s not. Jarrett got beat out by Kurt Coleman. Just let that sink in for a minute.

    If he was better than Allen or Coleman he would still be here. But he’s not.

  • Ty

    Valid argument but I believe A LOT of that had to do with Andy Reid. Look at other players we had on our bench that are now performing and even began to perform as Andy put them in – Brandon Graham , Vinny Curry are 2 examples.

  • Absecon

    All the reasons to let him play and finish out his contract have already been discussed on here and other blogs ad nauseum. How many safeties do you see around the league that stand out? A handful at most? I see the same mistakes all day long on Sunday’s around the league. Upgrades aren’t out there right now. Take away the crap he had to play with and be coached by, the main issue I see is he doesn’t blow up people when he hits them. I don’t think you’ll see the coverage issues like in the past. No one on this defense stops the run, so that’s not a reason to be benched on this team!

  • Mitchell

    So how does that explain the last two drafts? Curry and Kendricks have looked very good so far this season. Lane is going to be a monster. Logan and cox look to be the makings of a solid DL. Andy had been there for over ten years and was arguably the face of the organization. That kind of power would be a bit difficult to deal with.