SOMEWHERE FAIRLY high among the reasons why Andy Reid almost certainly will coach his final home game for the Eagles Sunday is this: Reid's team drafted safety Nate Allen in the second round in 2010, 37th overall, and safety Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round in 2011, 54th overall.
Neither Allen nor Jarrett will start for the Eagles against the visiting Washington Redskins. Jarrett was cut Sept. 11, and on Wednesday, Reid announced that Colt Anderson will take Allen's starting role.
Safety might be the most glaring hole in the Eagles' roster right now, despite the fact that the team tried to address it, prominently, in back-to-back drafts. Yet, in the 15th game of the 2012 season, Reid's starters are a pair of undersized battlers, 2010 seventh-round pick Kurt Coleman and Anderson, an undrafted special-teams ace the Eagles got on waivers from Minnesota in 2010.
"Colt came in and we asked him to fill in at the line of scrimmage and be a physical player in there, and he did a nice job with that," Reid said of Anderson, who played for Coleman the past two games, while Coleman was out with a bruised sternum. "We needed that at that time, and we're going to need it this week. They run the football, and do a good job with that."
Allen has started all 13 games this season, 38 of the 41 games he has played as an Eagle. Drafted with a pick the Eagles acquired from the Redskins for Donovan McNabb, Allen looked very promising early in his rookie year, but ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee 2 years ago this week and has never really recaptured that promise. He tends to misjudge angles, and to miss tackles. It seems fair to wonder whether a 6-1, 210-pound safety shouldn't be of a more physical presence.
"All three will probably have an opportunity to play," Reid said. "But again, right now, Kurt is a little more stout in there, and we need that. We need that this week."
Allen said he won't make waves, wants to help the team win. "Colt's been playing well, man," Allen said. "I'm not sure exactly what the decision was, but everything we do is to win games . . . We're just gonna roll with it."
Allen said playing the run "is something you can always improve on."
Asked about the apparent change in his performance since his knee surgery, Allen said, "I'm not gonna make excuses because of my injury."
Allen described his response when he heard the news: "I was all right with it. You've got to be a professional about it, just go out there and continue to work, contribute and help the team however you can."
Anderson, listed generously at 5-10, 194, obviously cherishes the chance to prove he can be more than a special-teams hitter. One reason he hasn't gotten such an opportunity earlier probably has been his slight frame. He needs to show he can hold up under a pounding.
"I can go in there and compete. I'm not the biggest guy. I'm not the fastest guy," Anderson said Wednesday, when asked what he thinks he has shown so far. "These last 2 weeks, I feel good [after playing]. Mondays, Tuesdays, I feel like I'm ready to roll" instead of feeling worn down.
Anderson said there isn't much difference between the safety positions in the Eagles' defense; if the tight end moves, the free safety can become the strong safety before the snap.
"It's huge," he said, when asked about the chance to prove he's a starter. "Any time you get an opportunity to play in the NFL, it's a big deal. I'm going to approach it no different than I have the last couple weeks."
Tight end Clay Harbor, placed on injured reserve Tuesday with three small fractures in his lower back, said he was hurt in the second quarter of the Bengals game but kept playing, partly because Brent Celek was out with a concussion and Harbor didn't want to leave emergency tight end Emil Igwenagu having to take every snap.
"It definitely affected me. It felt terrible," he said. "Just sharp pains, every step you take, every time you get down in your stance, every time you get touched, hit, just really painful . . . Emil's a great player, but it'd be a tough spot for him to be in. I just tried to stay out there for my teammates and play through it."
Celek returned to practice Wednesday and said he's ready to go Sunday. He'll be backed up by Igwenagu and former Seahawks tight end Evan Moore, assuming Moore passes an Eagles physical Thursday, a source close to the situation said. Moore, a former Stanford star, was released by the Seahawks this week.
With Igwenagu practicing at tight end and Stanley Havili unlikely to play with a hamstring injury, Chris Polk seems likely to be the fullback.