Yes, Wolff was running alongside Malcolm Jenkins on the first team Wednesday. But, as Jenkins pointed out, he himself saw some second-team snaps this week. The highly touted promotion of first-round pick Marcus Smith from third-team to second-team left outside linebacker might have been something else altogether.
“I don’t think he got moved up to the second team,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “I think everybody is rotating with every group. I don’t think there is any second or third team yet. They’re going to see (linebacker Bryan) Braman and Marcus against better competition throughout camp.”
The competition between Allen and Wolff figures to last through the preseason. A slight change in the number of first-team reps is all too easy to overreact to.
Allen wasn’t overreacting. The players definitely understand that this is just how coach Chip Kelly does things, mixing and matching players in order to get a good look at everyone. So Allen took his apparent demotion in stride.
“That’s how it’s been,” Allen said. “I’m not worrying about where I am. We’re all going to work together and make each better. We’ve all got to be able to work together and get a feel for each other. I think it’s good. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to work hard.”
From watching them play last season, Allen seems better suited to play deep and offer support in pass coverage. Wolff seems a bit better suited to playing in the box and playing the run. But it’s also true that Wolff was a rookie last season and is more likely to take a large step forward than the veteran Allen.
“He’s a young player with a lot of talent,” Jenkins said of Wolff. “Just off-the-wall talent. He has athleticism. He just has to learn the game. He has to be decisive with his calls, knowing what offenses are giving. That just comes with experience. You’ve got two different dynamics, but they’re both great players. Whoever ends up on that other side is going to be capable of getting the job done.”
For his part, Allen has been a victim of all the change on the coaching staff since he was drafted. This is the first year Allen will have the same coordinator for two full seasons in a row. So while he has more experience than Wolff, he also had to learn a new system from scratch last season.
“I’m looking forward to seeing both of them cut it loose, take more chances and see where their range is,” Jenkins said. “That’s the only you learn as a safety. You have to push yourself, take chances and see where your range is.”