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Chip Kelly said Monday that Nate Allen (right) will start over rookie Earl Wolff. (USA Today Images/AP)
If you were hoping to wake up and hear the news about Chip Kelly’s major change at safety, well, Monday isn’t your day.
When the Eagles host Andy Reid and the unbeaten Chiefs on Thursday night, the starting safeties will be Patrick Chung and Nate Allen, barring any late change of heart by Kelly or defensive coordinator Bill Davis.
Kelly on Monday said rookie Earl Wolff isn’t yet ready to start, even though Nate Allen’s continued struggles contributed to an all-time implosion by the defense. The Chargers rolled up 539 yards in their 33-30 win at the Linc opener.
Allen and Chung split reps, with Allen taking 63 reps (76 percent of the defensive reps) and Wolff getting 49 (59 percent). Allen was hardly the lone culprit, and Wolff was far from perfect, but the secondary’s problems are well documented and the lack of competent play at strong safety is one of its biggest issues.
“Earl is growing and we’ll still continue to grow him,” Kelly said, “but he’s still making some mistakes out there and I think [the coaches] are bringing him along and we’re excited about what his future is. But we still don’t feel he’s ready to go the whole way.”
After the final cuts, the Eagles signed two safeties to the practice squad who weren’t with the Eagles at training camp, an indication that Kelly was arming himself with more potential candidates if the Eagles cut ties with Allen or sought upgrades over Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson in the reserve tank.
Kelly said Trenton Robinson and Keelan Johnson are progressing but aren’t yet ready for the 53-man roster.
“No, we just acquired both those guys and they're learning,” he said. “They've been great since they've been here, but I don't think they've digested fully what we're doing defensively. They've only really been here a week. We added both of those guys, so they're still working very hard with [defensive backs] Coach [John] Lovett and [assistant defensive backs] Coach [Todd] Lyght, so we'll see where they are as this thing goes along. But I don't think any of us feel they're ready to go right now.”
Wolff’s snaps increased from eight in the opener to 49, but the fifth-round pick from N.C. State made his share of mistakes. He understands Kelly’s decision to groom him along, although he said a few bad plays wouldn’t rattle his confidence if he started.
“Not necessarily, but Coach Kelly knows what he’s doing,” Wolff said. “He’s trying to put me in the best situation possible and basically whatever he said I’ll do and I’m up for it.”