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Inside the Eagles: Decisions to make at safety

New Eagles safety Patrick Chung speaks with a reporter after an NFL football news conference announcing his three-year deal, Thursday, March 14, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP file)
New Eagles safety Patrick Chung speaks with a reporter after an NFL football news conference announcing his three-year deal, Thursday, March 14, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP file)Read more

Despite adding two free-agent safeties with 71 career starts and having both starting safeties from 2012 on the roster, the Eagles once again enter the NFL draft needing to upgrade at a position they have ineffectively evaluated in recent years.

A regime change with coach Chip Kelly and a key addition in the personnel department represent the opportunity for new sets of eyes to assess prospects. But Howie Roseman, who presided over the 2010 and 2011 drafts that brought second-round disappointments Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett to the Eagles, remains.

To be fair to Roseman, he hasn't been the only general manager who has whiffed on a position that has become increasingly difficult to evaluate. And Andy Reid had final say over those drafts. But Roseman has been forthright about the mistakes made at safety.

So will the Eagles expend another high pick on the position? The Eagles won't draft a safety with the No. 4 overall pick. The top-rated prospect — Texas' Kenny Vaccaro — is expected to go in the middle of the first round. So unless the Eagles trade down, they will have to wait until the third pick in the second round to select a safety.

With safety one of the deepest positions in the draft, the Eagles might wait until the middle rounds. After adding Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips this offseason, Kelly may not rank safety high on his list of needs.

Both arrive with question marks, however. Chung was benched by the Patriots last year. Asked last month to explain Chung's dip in production, New England coach Bill Belichick offered this blunt explanation: "Bottom line, it did.  ...  We had other players that were able to produce more."

Phillips played in only seven games last season because of a recurring injury to his left knee, on which he had microfracture surgery in 2009.

The Eagles also still have Allen and Kurt Coleman, although neither should feel much comfort after last season. If Phillips doesn't recover in time, Allen would seem to have the edge over Coleman because of the second-round investment. He was benched late last season, though, and seemed nonchalant about the demotion when asked by reporters.

In February, Roseman gave Allen a lukewarm endorsement. Coleman, on the other hand, was pushed into the starting lineup because the Eagles struck out with Jarrett and various free agents. The fourth-year safeties could benefit from the new coaching staff and a different system, but the clock is ticking on Allen, and Coleman is better suited as a backup.

Little is known of defensive coordinator Bill Davis' scheme, except that it will have an amorphous front seven. It's safe to presume, however, the safeties won't have additional run-gap responsibilities as the Eagles' centerfielders had for two seasons behind the wide-nine front.

Davis has been at both ends of the spectrum with his safeties during two previous stints as a coordinator. He had a collection of veterans, castoffs, and unproven safeties with the 49ers in 2005-06. In Davis' first season heading Arizona's defense, Adrian Wilson had arguably his best year and earned first-team all-pro honors, and Antrel Rolle was voted into his first Pro Bowl.

Statistically, the 2009 Cardinals were Davis' best unit. Rolle left for the New York Giants the following year. Kerry Rhodes was a competent replacement, but Davis' defense regressed significantly and he was fired after the season.

The Eagles need developmental youth in the secondary. Safety David Sims does not qualify.

The draft is seemingly stocked with safeties with late first- to fifth-round grades. Vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble, who left the 49ers for the Eagles in February, will aid Roseman and Kelly in crafting the draft board. Gamble was in San Francisco when Goldson, who signed with the Buccaneers in March, was drafted. He was also behind the free-agent signing of Donte Whitner.

There are three safeties _ Florida's Matt Elam, Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien, and Louisiana State's Eric Reid _ who could slip into the second round. Even if one did, the 49ers, who own the 31st and 34th overall picks, could pounce before the Eagles select at No. 35.

The next tier of safeties, who could go anywhere from the middle of the second round to the early fourth round, includes Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas, Fresno State's Phillip Thomas, Georgia's Bacarri Rambo, South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger, Georgia's Shawn Williams, and Southern Cal's T.J. McDonald.

Florida's Josh Evans, Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson, Georgia Southern's J.J. Wilcox, and Nevada's Duke Williams are generally thought to be fourth- to fifth-round talents.

There will be safeties for the Eagles to pick. The trick will be picking the right one.

Contact Jeff McLane at Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.