Five Tough Questions for Eagles Training Camp: Safety

Five Tough Questions for Eagles Training Camp: Safety

We pick up our training camp preview at safety, where it appears the Eagles have an even more wide-open competition than at quarterback. It's anybody's guess who will be starting come Week 1.

[ Five Tough Questions for Eagles Training Camp:
Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Offensive Line
Defensive Line | Linebacker | Cornerback ]

Is Nate Allen a draft bust?

He’s got one last chance to prove otherwise, but it's looking that way so far. We can be a little quick to judge athletes in this town, however nobody would blame you for being down on Allen. He was enjoying a promising rookie season in 2010 until it was interrupted by a ruptured patellar tendon, and he never quite looked the same the following year, remaining inconsistent up to present day. At best, Allen was essentially invisible in 15 games last season, defending just four passes while creating zero turnovers.

Then again, who didn’t look inconsistent amid the Eagles’ dysfunction in the waning days under Andy Reid, particularly on one of the league’s worst defenses? The secondary especially was a joke, as opposing quarterbacks posted a 99.6 passer rating against Philly – second-highest in the NFL. Sure, that would seem to reflect poorly on Allen, but the cornerbacks were frequently leaving the safeties to fend for themselves, and the safeties were often scratching their heads and looking confused after the fact. It was chaos.

The Birds’ defense probably won’t be an elite unit in their first year under Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis, but that should be because they’re a little short on talent, not for a lack of understanding the scheme. Whatever was going on with Juan Castillo/Todd Bowles/Jim Washburn on the coaching staff over the last two seasons, the secondary appeared to be hung out to dry as a result.

In other words, maybe Allen’s struggles are not all his own fault. Maybe in a less-complex scheme (with a true defensive coordinator), where the other guys in the huddle are in it for more than themselves, he’ll improve. Or maybe the one dubbed “the McNabb Pick” is a bust, and he’ll be exposed no matter where he is or who’s around him. The clock is ticking.

What should we expect from Patrick Chung?

A flawed-but-starting-material player. Chung burst on to the scene during his second season for the Patriots in 2010, but he’s been unable to stay healthy ever since. Then last year not only was he hurt, but his play really dropped off. He took bad angles to the ball, and generally was not as dangerous or effective. The ‘09 second-round pick lost his starting job before the year was out, and New England let him walk in the offseason.

The Eagles scooped him up for three years, $10 million, and penciled him in at one of the safety spots. It’s not simply a case where Chip Kelly is familiar with Chung from their Oregon days, either. The club is hoping they got a genuine inside-the-box presence, somebody who can help out against the run and blitz, plus make the occasional big play in coverage as well.

Chung probably isn’t going to become Brian Dawkins all of a sudden, but safety has been a huge mess for the Eagles ever since Weapon X left. Admittedly this addition looks more like another band-aid than a permanent solution, but having a player who was good enough to start in the Super Bowl a couple years ago means the Birds can finally move on from the likes of Kurt Coleman this summer. That can’t be a bad thing.

Is Kenny Phillips healthy?

That of course is the catch-22 with Phillips. He has a long injury of knee histories, missing almost all of the ’09 campaign after having microfracture surgery on the left, and appearing in just seven games due to a sprained MCL in the left last season. After signing with the Eagles as a free agent in the offseason, already this spring Phillips was held out of practice due to his knee issues.

If the former first-round pick were healthy, the Birds would be getting one of the best cover safeties in the NFL. In 2011, his last full season, he hauled down four interceptions, defended 11 passes, and forced a fumble. There’s a reason the New York Giants let him walk though, the same reason why Philadelphia was able to sign him for one year at just north of the league minimum – those knees.

If Phillips can survive training camp, he has a great chance to be one of the two starters. At this point that might seem like a big “if,” but who can predict these things?

Does Earl Wolff have a chance to start in his rookie season?

Absolutely. I mean, I don’t see anybody definitely holding him back, do you? A fifth-round pick out of North Carolina State, Wolff’s athleticism stands out. He’s not particularly huge at 5-11, 209, but he is strong, and people tend to take notice of players with 4.44 speed and a 39-inch vertical. Watch him jump on to a shelf that’s nearly as tall as he is.

Raw athletic talent won’t win a job alone for Wolff, but with so many question marks above him on the depth chart, he’s got a legit chance at earning playing time. Reporters noted the rookie did get some first-team reps at practices this spring, and while Chip says we can’t read into that stuff too much, this one seems fairly telling given the circumstances.

Allen, Chung, and Phillips are all injury prone and/or are not necessarily going to cut it. Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson, and David Sims don’t look like threats at the moment. Wolff’s path to the field is fairly clear.

Who will ultimately start at safety for the Eagles?

Chung almost certainly, then either Allen or Phillips in the second spot.

Based on the contract he signed, it appears Chung was brought in to start for at least this upcoming season, although obviously plans can change. On the opposite side Allen has the inside track, but if Phillips can go, he is probably the best – not to mention most-experienced – safety on the roster.

As was mentioned above, don’t sleep on Earl Wolff, either. Either way, just be glad Kurt Coleman could be out of the picture finally.

Andrew Kulp is a freelance writer covering Philadelphia sports for The700Level.com. E-mail him at andrewkulp@comcast.net or follow him on Twitter.

Ex-Penn State officials to be sentenced in June over Sandusky

apjerrysandusky.jpg
AP Images

Ex-Penn State officials to be sentenced in June over Sandusky

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Sentencing has been scheduled for three former top officials at Penn State University who were convicted of child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal.

Former university president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley will be sentenced June 2 in Harrisburg.

Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment. Spanier went to trial and was convicted in March. His lawyer said he will appeal.

The convictions stem from their handling of a 2001 complaint about Sandusky apparently molesting a boy in a school shower.

The administrators didn't report the encounter involving the ex-assistant football coach to police or child-welfare authorities.

Sandusky was arrested a decade later. He is serving up to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys but is appealing.
 

Hudrick's 2017 NFL mock draft 3.0: Still Barnett or a shift to offense at No. 14?

Hudrick's 2017 NFL mock draft 3.0: Still Barnett or a shift to offense at No. 14?

The 2017 NFL draft is upon us. The Eagles will hold No. 14 overall pick. Here is Paul Hudrick's mock draft 3.0 to get you ready for the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia. Hudrick's seven-round Eagles mock 2.0 is here

1. Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, 6-4/272
If there is actually a debate between Garrett and North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, everyone in the Browns' front office should be fired. Then again, the Browns have done worse.

2. San Francisco 49ers - Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford, 6-2/273
Sticking with Thomas here. GM John Lynch has his eyes set on defense and head coach Kyle Shanahan has his eyes on Kirk Cousins next offseason.

3. Chicago Bears - Jamal Adams , S, LSU, 6-0/214
Adams is a game-changing safety that you can build your defense around. The Bears have so many holes, they take him because he's the best player on the board.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, 6-0/240
So far, my mock hasn't changed from the last one. Fournette adds a physical element to the Jags' offense that vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin will love.

5. Tennessee Titans - Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama, 6-3/286 
Allen only drops because of medical concerns. He's easily one of the top five best players in this draft. He'll make an immediate impact on the Titans' defense.

6. New York Jets - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State, 6-0/193
Like Allen, the only concern over Lattimore is health. He's had reoccurring issues with his hamstrings, but he has prototypical size and great speed.

7. Los Angeles Chargers - Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State, 6-1/206
Hooker has dropped in some mocks because of his health. I'm not buying it. He's too talented and this is too good of a fit.

8. Carolina Panthers - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford, 5-11/202 
For the record, this is too rich for my blood, but the McCaffrey hype train seems to be unstoppable. It's not to say McCaffrey won't be an explosive NFL player. He will be.

9. Cincinnati Bengals - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson, 6-4/218 
Mike Williams and A.J. Green will be a scary duo. Especially when you add Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert and second-year pro Tyler Boyd to the mix.

10. Buffalo Bills - Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama, 6-0/229
I know about Foster's red flags. I don't care. He's way too talented to drop out of the top 10 over a couple dumb mistakes. New head coach Sean McDermott has been running his team with a no nonsense approach. I expect Foster to fall in line.

11. New Orleans Saints - TreDavious White, CB, LSU, 5-11/192
This would've been a great spot for Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, but I don't feel comfortable mocking him in the first round with the recent rape allegations. They take White, an outstanding cover corner from their own backyard.

12. Cleveland Browns - Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina, 6-2/222 
Trubisky winds up on the Browns either at this spot or via a trade. Snagging Garrett and Trubisky would be a nice haul for the Browns.

13. Arizona Cardinals - Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech, 6-2/225
Bruce Arians doesn't really seem to be hiding the fact that the Cardinals are looking for a young quarterback. Mahomes has all the physical traits you're looking for but needs time to develop. He'll be afforded that behind Carson Palmer.

14. Philadelphia Eagles - Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, 6-3/259
I've had the Eagles taking Barnett in both of my Eagles mocks and in my last two first-round mocks. If Barnett falls here, it's a no-brainer. Barnett adds to Jim Schwartz's pass rush rotation. He's not a freak athlete but he's a complete football player with a high motor. It's always nice when a Hall of Famer agrees with you on your pick.

If Barnett is gone, I love Western Michigan's Corey Davis. He can play on the inside or outside and can be an impact player from Day 1 for Carson Wentz and the Eagles.

15. Indianapolis Colts - Haason Reddick, LB, Temple, 6-1/237 
The Colts need defensive playmakers and Reddick fits that bill. He'll player early downs in the middle, but if I'm the Colts, I allow him to use his pass rushing skills on passing downs from time to time.

16. Baltimore Ravens - O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama, 6-6/251 
Howard could easily go in the top 10. If he falls to Ozzie Newsome, the Hall of Fame tight end will pounce.

17. Washington Redskins - John Ross, WR, Washington, 5-11/188 
They replace DeSean Jackson with a more complete and younger (and maybe even faster) version in Ross.

18. Tennessee Titans - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan, 6-3/209
This would be an excellent pick for the Titans. Davis has been my favorite receiver for a good chunk of the college season. If he was healthy for the combine and ran a 4.4, he'd probably be a top 10 pick.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State, 5-10/210
There were rumblings that Cook could fall to the second round, but he's too talented of a back to slip that far. He's a perfect fit for Tampa and former teammate Jameis Winston.

20. Denver Broncos - Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah, 6-5/297
It took some serious self debate, but I've come to the conclusion that Bolles is the best offensive tackle in the draft. I love his mean streak more than anything.

21. Detroit Lions - Charles Harris, DE, Missouri, 6-3/253
Harris is a safe pick. I'm not sure the current hype is matching the prospect, but Harris is strong, athletic and has a variety of pass rush moves.

22. Miami Dolphins - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama, 6-0/197 
I love Humphrey's athletic profile, but his inability to locate the ball in the air scares me. A team may fall in love with his prototypical size and speed and take him earlier.

23. New York Giants - Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin, 6-6/310
Ramczyk allows Ereck Flowers to move to right tackle where he should be more effective.

24. Oakland Raiders - Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama, 6-6/322
I like Robinson more than Ramczyk, but Robinson will be better off starting his career at right tackle or guard.

25. Houston Texans - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson, 6-2/221
Head coach Bill O'Brien deserves the opportunity to develop a good, young quarterback. The Texans have a strong defense and decent running game. They also have an elite weapon in Deandre Hopkins. Watson will have a chance to succeed.

26. Seattle Seahawks - Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky, 6-4/309
The Seahawks' line needs a lot of help. They snag the best interior lineman in the draft in Lamp.

27. Kansas City Chiefs - Jarrad Davis, MLB, Florida, 6-1/238
Davis is an ideal heir apparent for 34-year-old veteran Derrick Johnson.

28. Dallas Cowboys - Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan, 6-6/277
Charlton makes a ton of sense for the Cowboys. Rod Marinelli seems to like bigger edge rushers and Charlton fits that bill.

29. Green Bay Packers - T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin, 6-4/252
Watt has been getting serious hype over the last week or so. I still think he's a second-round player, but he would be a solid fit for the Packers.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers - DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame, 6-4/233
I love this fit for the Steelers. Kizer has a lot of Ben Roethlisberger-like qualities. He can learn from the sideline and inherit an offense loaded with weapons when Big Ben retires. I'm still of the belief that Kizer has the most upside of any QB in this draft.

31. Atlanta Falcons - Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan, 5-11/213 
Peppers falls because of his diluted test, but Dan Quinn will find a way to get the best out of Peppers' versatility.

32. New Orleans Saints - Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA, 6-2/250
If the Saints don't snag White at 11, USC corner Adoree Jackson could be in play. I'll give them McKinley, a proven rusher to play on the other side of veteran Cameron Jordan.