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Can Wolff's return fix the Eagles' secondary woes?
Earl Wolff hasn't played since the Eagles' Week 10 win in Green Bay. (USA Today Images)
Looking for some good news about the Eagles’ secondary?
Well, looks like Earl Wolff will finally return to action for Sunday’s pivotal prime-time showdown against the Bears.
With the NFC East potentially clinchable at the Linc, the Eagles’ decimated secondary should have its impressive rookie safety back in the mix.
Barring a setback on the right knee he injured against Green Bay on Nov. 10, Wolff on Tuesday said he expects to make his anticipated return. He hasn’t played in the four games since, and his absence was really missed in Sunday’s 48-30 loss to the Vikings, especially when two safeties went down with injuries.
"[A setback] is probably the only thing that will hold me," he said. "That’s the only reason I wouldn’t play."
It’s unclear if Wolff will start or if his snaps will be limited, but the Eagles will be happy to have him back in any capacity. Backups Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson each missed practice on Tuesday and Coleman is considered "week to week."
Meanwhile, Patrick Chung may be asked to fill the nickelback role usually manned by Brandon Boykin, who is going through the concussion recovery protocol.
At one point against the Vikings, the Eagles were down to just Chung and Nate Allen.
"I was hoping and praying neither one of them got hurt," Wolff said.
Wolff said he occasionally feels some knee soreness but has made dramatic improvement since last Tuesday, when he started practicing for the first time since the Green Bay game. He said one of the factors that kept him sidelined him against the Vikings was the Metrodome’s hard turf surface.
"I went out there, I was doing some drill work before the game," he said. "It was kind of sore. It wasn’t feeling right. Thats why I decided to sit out."
But Wolff felt much better at Tuesday’s practice and said he could have played if there was a game that day.
"Most likely I would," he said. "I practiced and it felt really well. Hopefully, it’ll feel the same way Sunday and I’ll be ready to go."
Wolff, a fifth-round pick from N.C. State, had been one of the team’s most impressive rookies at the spring camps and over the summer. He opened the season as a reserve, although he rotated with Nate Allen. He became the starter when Chung suffered a shoulder injury against the Chiefs on Sept. 19 that sidelined the veteran safety for four games.
Chung hasn’t played well since stepping back into a starting role after Wolff’s injury. It appeared the coaches benched Chung in favor of Coleman in the first quarter against the Vikings after Chung was beaten by Greg Jennings on a 57-yard touchdown, but defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the plan going into the game was to rotate each safety.
Davis said Chung’s "slump" factored into the rotation.
"We were rotating because Patrick has been in a little bit of a slump," Davis said. "There was going to be an every-two-series rotation of the safeties regardless of that play. That wasn't something that was a knee-jerk reaction to one play."
Chung declined comment.
Chung will probably see snaps against Chicago even if Boykin returns to play the slot as the coaches will likely monitor Wolff’s snaps and make sure he’s not overworked in his first game in six weeks. Davis said Chung’s confidence is still an issue since his comeback from the shoulder injury.
"I think he's working his way back to that place," Davis said. “I think confidence is always an issue with a lot of guys. You have to get your grooves back, your confidence back. That's all happening with Patrick. A couple bad plays over the couple weeks. I bet he'll have his best game against Chicago."