Allen strives to survive secondary purge

PHILADELPHIA – Only the strong (safety) survived.

That’s been the case so far, as the overhaul of the Eagles’ dreadful 2012 secondary remains incomplete. Strong safety Nate Allen could be the sole survivor.

“Nate's a phenomenal athlete and good football player,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “Nobody works harder at it than Nate. The first game he struggled a little bit, and second game, he played well.”

Allen, drafted with a pick acquired in the Donovan McNabb trade, figured to be swept out with the rest of the starting defensive backfield. That group gave up a league-high 33 touchdowns, more than two per game, and wasn’t exactly a model of stout run defense.

The starting cornerbacks are gone. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had become symbols of the 2011 “Dream Team” debacle. They were even less effective last season. Asomugha was released. Rodgers-Cromartie walked in free agency.

General manager Howie Roseman signed Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher to replace them.

Free safety Kurt Coleman is still in camp, but has been displaced on the depth chart by Patrick Chung. Roseman signed Chung in the same offseason spree that netted Williams, Fletcher and safety Kenny Phillips.

That’s where the overhaul remains incomplete. Injuries have kept Phillips from establishing himself. He missed the second preseason game, against Carolina, with a strained quadriceps. He was riding an exercise bike instead of practicing Wednesday.

Meanwhile, fifth-round pick Earl Wolff has not yet been able to slip into the starting lineup. That leaves Allen, who has been an underwhelming presence, as the No. 1 strong safety for Saturday’s preseason game in Jacksonville, Fla.

“This is a big preseason game for us,” Davis said. “In the evaluation process, every game weighs a little heavier than the practices, obviously, because of the speed at which you play and the tackles and all that. But this is a big preseason game to help us determine who the starters will be and the back ups.”

Davis said Allen and Chung will start for the third week in a row, but he plans to rotate other candidates in with the first team.

“There is still a good competition going on there,” Davis said. “We'll try to get everybody some plays. Probably roll some of the other safeties in the first half. So it's not in stone. We really want to get a good look at all the guys and see where we are at the end of the three preseason games that we play.”

If Phillips isn’t able to play, there won’t be much time left for him to make a run at the starting job. That could leave Allen, thought to be targeted for replacement, as the only secondary survivor from last year’s wreckage.

“I need to have a great game,” Allen said. “No mental errors, just go out there and make plays. That’s the same every day. Even out here in practice, you have to go out and play your game -- no mental errors, nobody getting behind you. Whether I’m running with the ones or the twos or the threes, I’m just going out there and working.”