Allen, Wolff battle for starting job -- again


Allen, Wolff battle for starting job -- again

The storyline that wouldn’t go away last spring and summer is back again. Nate Allen or Earl Wolff? Earl Wolff or Nate Allen?

The steady vet or the promising upstart?

Right now, just like it was last year at this time, the answer is Nate Allen.

“Nate's the first guy up,” coach Chip Kelly said Thursday. “And Earl is in running with the second group right now. And both have done a great job in the offseason program. We're excited to see those guys play it out.”

Of course, Kelly and his staff have seen this act play out once before.

The veteran Allen and rookie Wolff battled all last year throughout OTAs and training camp for the right to start opposite Patrick Chung. The coaches never really intended to open the season with Wolff, a fifth-round pick from N.C. State, but they split reps between both safeties until finally settling on Allen.

In the end, the odd man out ended up being Chung, whose injuries led to Allen and Wolff manning the safety tandem as the calendar turned from fall to winter. Allen started all 16 games for the first time his career, playing steadily. Wolff enjoyed some very good moments until a knee injury late in the season sidelined him for six of the last seven games, including the team’s first-round playoff loss to New Orleans.

In the offseason, the Eagles cut Chung, signed Malcolm Jenkins to start and re-signed Allen to a one-year deal. When the team reconvened in April for the offseason program, Wolff observed his name below Allen’s on the depth chart.


“Not at all,” Wolff said. “I ended up getting hurt. Nate played pretty good, to me, to everybody. So I wasn’t mad the first day we came back and I saw his name above mine. He deserved it. I didn’t end the year the way I wanted to, so I didn’t deserve to be up there as the No. 1 guy.”

So the Eagles are back to Square 1. They’ll let competition decide whether Wolff or Allen should be the guy opposite Jenkins.

“Every day I come out here and give it my all,” Wolff said. “Me and Nate have a good friendship, relationship and basically we both know it’s going to come down to -- we’re not sure -- probably till the preseason or whatever. We’re both going to give our all and may the best man win.”

Kelly also drafted Ed Reynolds out of Stanford in the fifth round but Reynolds, like all NFL prospects from Stanford, will miss the OTAs because of an NCAA rule prohibiting college players from attending NFL camps before graduation.

Jenkins, still new to the club, couldn’t handicap the race but seemed to suggest that Allen’s savvy and expertise could trump Wolff’s athleticism.

“It’s too early to say anything about it,” Jenkins said. “Obviously, they’re both competing for that spot. You got Nate, who’s a veteran who knows what to do. He’s gonna be in the right place at the right time. He knows the defense. I think he’s getting better as far as anticipating what offenses are gonna do.

“Earl, he’s very, very athletic. He’s young. But he’s still inexperienced. I think that’s the biggest thing for him is learning the nuances of the game and how to play different positions, what to look for and how to take what the book says that you should do it and apply it to what the play is developing as. We’ll see how that plays out once we get into training camp and get further along.”

Allen and Wolff were surprisingly efficient last year, helping the Eagles resolve their prolonged streak of disasters at the position going back to their head-slapping decision to let franchise icon Brian Dawkins escape to Denver after the 2009 season and then Quintin Mikell walk out the door after 2010.

Allen, a second-round pick whose career kept arcing the wrong way in 2011 and 2012, managed to play 16 games for the first time in his career and seemed to correct the sloppy tackling problems that had become his calling card during those two dark years.

He set a career high with 94 tackles, ranking third on the defense, and recorded at least one sack and one interception in the same season for the first time since his promising rookie year.

Wolff mixed into the defense early before getting his first start Week 4 against the Broncos to replace an injured Chung. In his second career start, he registered eight tackles. He racked up eight more a week later against the Bucs.

If he hadn’t suffered a knee hyperextension that limited him to just one game over the last seven weeks, maybe he’d enter this year’s camp ahead of Allen on the depth chart.

No matter, Wolff said. It’s just another motivational tool.

Not that he really needed one more.

“Even if my name was ahead of him, you know, I know that doesn’t guarantee anything,” he said. “Because even though I’d still be No. 1 on this team, I still want to be the best in this league.”

Eagles Inactives: Bennie Logan (groin) out vs. Vikings

Eagles Inactives: Bennie Logan (groin) out vs. Vikings

Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan (groin) is inactive for the team’s game against the Vikings at the Linc on Sunday afternoon.

Logan missed practice all week but was listed as questionable and was said to be a game-time decision. Beau Allen will start in his place, but the Eagles will likely use more Allen, Fletcher Cox, Destiny Vaeao and Vinny Curry at tackle.

While Logan is inactive, Ron Brooks (calf), Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and Mychal Kendricks (ribs) are all active. The trio was listed as questionable coming into the weekend.

Joining Logan among the inactive players are: OL Dillon Gordon, OL Josh Andrews, OL Isaac Seumalo, CB C.J. Smith, S Terrence Brooks and WR Bryce Treggs.

Despite Tregg’s getting extended reps this week in practice, he’s still not playing.

For the Vikings, wideout Stefon Diggs (groin), who was listed as questionable, is active.

Vikings inactives: WR Laquon Treadwell, WR Jarius Wright, LB Kentrell Brothers, C Nick Easton, G Willie Beavers, DT Sharrif Floyd, TE MyCole Pruitt.

Eagles-Vikings: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Vikings: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles (3-2) have an extremely tough game against Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) on Sunday at the Linc.

The Vikings come out of their bye week as the NFL's only undefeated team, while the Eagles have lost to Detroit and Washington following their bye.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Sam Bradford vs. Eagles' defense
The big storyline all week has been the return of Sam Bradford to Philadelphia, where he spent the 2015 season and most of the 2016 offseason.

How much will familiarity play a role on Sunday?

Bradford clearly knows the Eagles' defensive personnel and scheme, having played against the defense throughout training camp. But on the flip side, the defense knows all of Bradford's tendencies. We dove into this in depth earlier in the week (see story).

What has made Bradford so good through his first four games with the Vikings (he didn't play in the opener) has been the way he's protected the football. He hasn't thrown an interception yet and the Vikings' offense hasn't yet turned the football over.

Stefon Diggs vs. Leodis McKelvin
Diggs might be a little banged up, but as long as he's on the field, the Eagles will need to keep an eye on him. Diggs is an absolute burner, so it's a good thing the Eagles will likely have their fastest corner, McKelvin back this week.

But McKelvin is coming off a hamstring injury that has bothered him since early in the season, so we'll need to see if he can make it through this game. If he can't, rookie Jalen Mills will get in the game. Without blazing speed, Mills had trouble containing DeSean Jackson last week.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai vs. Danielle Hunter/Brian Robinson
Big V's NFL debut wasn't a good one. He gave up five quarterback hurries and two sacks against Washington. This week, he'll have to deal with Robinson and Hunter on that right side of the offensive line.

Robinson and Hunter are each tied for the Vikings' lead with four sacks this season. They're likely salivating at the idea of seeing Vaitai on Sunday.

Kyle Rudolph vs. Malcolm Jenkins
While Diggs has been the Vikings' leading receiver, Rudolph is a dangerous component to the team's passing attack. Through five games, Rudolph has 21 catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns.

It will be a team effort to stop him Sunday. At times, he'll be covered with a linebacker and at times a safety. We'll list Jenkins here because he gave up a touchdown to 32-year-old Vernon Davis last week.

Vikings' run game vs. Eagles' run defense
The Vikings have the worst run game in the NFL. They've average a league-low 2.45 yards per attempt. They’re the first team since the 2010 Broncos to have a rushing average of 2.5 or worse through five games. And they’re just the 11th team since 1940 to do it.

But the Vikings are going to try to run the ball against the Eagles. Why wouldn't they?

The Eagles were absolutely gashed for 230 yards by Washington. They had 10 missed tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact. Something's gotta give here.