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Howie 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.
Chip Kelly was not happy with the turnovers and penalties Saturday night against the Jaguars, but overall, he didn’t seem too concerned with the performance of the Eagles’ offense.
“We were again our own worst enemy on the offensive side of the ball,” Kelly said. “We turned it over three times. One was on a punt return by Damaris [Johnson] and the one [Bryce Brown fumble] that goes through the end zone. And besides that, the two big penalties where we had huge first downs where we get them called back because we got penalties, whether it was on the 4th-and-1 or on the third down early in the first half. So those are the things that kill drives – the penalties and the turnovers. We need to continue to work on that.”
The third and most important preseason game is almost upon us. Saturday’s game in Jacksonville will be the final tune-up for the starting units before the season opener against the Redskins. It also represents some players’ last chance to impress the coaches before the roster gets trimmed to 75 on Tuesday. (The number goes all the way down to 53 by Aug. 31.)
Here are five Eagles that we’ll be paying close attention to:
Less than three weeks from the opener, and still so many questions about the secondary. Let’s try to answer some of them with the help of Billy Davis and several of the players:
Billy Davis indicated today that he’ll make his final evaluations on starters after Saturday night’s preseason game against the Jaguars.
Keeping that in mind, here’s a position-by-position look at which spots are up for grabs, along with comments from Davis.
The Eagles have signed 6-6, 280-pound defensive end Eddie McClam on Saturday, the team announced.
McClam was in camp with the Lions last season. He played college ball at Old Dominion. The 24-year-old worked out with the Eagles earlier in the day before landing the job and participated in Saturday’s practice at Lincoln Financial Field.
Players who were unable to suit up for the session include Curtis Marsh (broken hand), Felix Jones (oblique), Danny Watkins (concusion), Emil Igwenagu (concussion), Dennis Kelly (back) , Kenny Phillips (quad) and Casey Matthews (knee).
Jason Peters, who has been sidelined with a hamstring strain, took part in team drills. Jon Dorenbos (concussion) returned to practice.
It is difficult for Kenny Phillips to relay what is happening with him physically because he is going so much off of feel.
It’s been almost four years since he had microfracture surgery. He was told at the time that he would have to manage his left knee for the rest of his career, and so far that has proven to be true. His knee never swells up and his body never shuts down, he says, so there are no obvious signs to tell him when he needs to back off. But through trial and error, he’s learned that setbacks are lurking around the corner if he’s not careful, and has a sense for when he is getting close to the edge.
The red line is not defined, so the team must take their cues from the player.
DeSean Jackson sat out practice Friday with an ankle injury.
The receiver was on the field with his teammates at the start of the session, but wore a visor instead of a helmet and was purely a spectator.
Kenny Phillips is about to become a new dad and was not at practice. A team spokesman seemed to think that the safety, who has been sidelined with knee issues, would have participated in practice otherwise. But who knows.
Meanwhile, Cary Williams was once again a no-show. The corner missed about a month of work as he took care of some personal business, which included getting married, having dental work done and tending to a house-build. The latest reason? His daughter’s recital.
LeSean McCoy was absent as well. The Eagles did not give an explanation. Todd Herremans was in attendance but did not participate. No details were provided.
Jason Peters continues to be absent for personal reasons.
These OTAs are voluntary. There is a mandatory minicamp coming up that runs June 4-6.
If you could have one current Eagle for the rest of his career, who would you pick? That, plus thoughts on Kenny Phillips’ chances and Chip Kelly’s biggest obstacle in the latest Twitter Mailbag.
Jason Peters was not at the NovaCare Complex for the Eagles’ voluntary practice this morning.
Chip Kelly would not offer details, but did not seem overly concerned. Asked if he would have liked Peters to be here, Kelly said, “No, I understand exactly where Jason is.”
Nate Allen didn’t know about the free-agent safety additions until he got the call from Chip Kelly.
“He was just saying, ‘It’s just, we need competition out here,'” said Allen.
But anyone who watched this team last year knows the situation is far more urgent than that.
Pro Football Focus has safety rankings from the 2012 season based on overall performance. Of the 88 safeties evaluated, Allen ranked 84th and Kurt Coleman 85th.The Eagles yielded a league-worst 33 touchdowns through the air. Opposing quarterbacks had an average rating of 99.6 against them. (Only Kansas City [99.9] was more generous.)
The Eagles understandably made safety a priority this offseason, adding Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung to the fold in free agency. Then they used a fifth-round pick on Earl Wolff in April’s draft.
So, where does it all stand now that we’re a few weeks into the offseason program?
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.