The other shoe finally dropped after Nate Allen’s rough outing in the preseason opener. According to reports out of the NovaCare Complex, the fourth-year safety was replaced in the defense’s top pairing at practice on Monday by rookie Earl Wolff.
Wolff being elevated to the first string at this stage in camp is big news, as it would seem the fifth-round pick is getting a serious look to start sooner rather than later. Patrick Chung remained with the first-team defense, and he probably has one of the two spots locked down, but the other job is still wide open.
Allen fumbled his opportunity on Friday against the Patriots. He took a horrible angle to the ball carrier on Stevan Ridley’s 62-yard run to open the game. He would have been on the hook for a touchdown in coverage had the starting quarterback still been on the field. Generally speaking, he hasn’t looked very sharp.
Allen worked with David Sims in the second grouping on Monday per reports. However, Kenny Phillips was not at practice, as he’s apparently dealing with a quad injury – not sure who would have run third string, though my gut says Sims.
When the unofficial depth chart was released last week, Wolff was at the very bottom. That was reflected in the game as well, as Wolff did not get in until late. It’s a huge jump, going from the seventh safety on the roster to potential starter Thursday versus Carolina in a matter of days.
Also of some interest, multiple reports over the past two have had Clay Harbor working with the wide receivers. The team is still thin there after a series of camp injuries, and Harbor’s fine receiving performance on Friday – three receptions for 47 yards – stood out.
One popular line of thinking is the Eagles will keep four tight ends, and Harbor is in line for that final spot so far. Chip Kelly likes to move those guys around the formation, too, so it's probably important to find out whether Harbor can be more than an in-line tight end. The head coach did mention Harbor is the fastest player at his position, per Reuben Frank:
“We’ve got seven tight ends, and he already knows how to play inside because all the tight ends know how to play the slot,” Kelly said. “He had three big catches for us Friday night. He’s probably the fastest of the tight ends. Until, really, there’s some cut downs and there’s some guys available, we think that the best route for us is the guys we have.
The big news is Wolff though. Chip has downplayed the existence of a true depth chart at every turn, but given Allen’s performance and that he had previously run with the ones all of last week, it’s tough not to read into the change. And given the state of the Eagles’ safeties, it’s not unreasonable at all to assume a rookie has a chance to start there.