Earl Wolff, a rookie, shown during Eagles practice last week, replaced Nate Allen with the first-team defense Monday, but coordinator Billy Davis says the move is not necessarily a permanent one.

Associated Press photo by Matt Rourke, Aug. 5

PHILADELPHIA - Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis wants his defense to be feared.

But he wants it to earn that reputation through its performance rather than by making outlandish comments.

"Every defense in the NFL is striving to be feared and respected," Davis said Monday at the NovaCare Complex. "But the only way to get there is not through words and talking. It's by putting on the pads and mastering your trade.

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"If you're a cornerback, you want to be a lockdown corner. If you're a linebacker, you want to be a tackling machine. If you're a pass rusher, you want to get to the quarterback. Nobody wants that swagger more than the guys in this locker room, but words don't matter. You have to show it on the field."

The Eagles' defense didn't scare anyone except the team's fans during Friday's preseason opener against New England.

The Patriots' Steven Ridley reeled off a 62-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in the Eagles' 31-22 loss at Lincoln Financial Field. Ridley and fellow running back LaGarrette Blount ran roughshod over the Eagles, combining for 193 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Quarterbacks Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow teamed up for 217 passing yards and one TD.

"We don't have the mindset that needed to be where it is," Davis said. "We're not there. We're not even close. But we're working hard to get there. Our practices right now are some of the best I've been around."

Their practices last week weren't impressive.

They spent three days working against the Patriots and were dominated most of the time. Cornerback Cary Williams accused the Pats of trash talking and making dirty plays during the joint practices. He got into a fight with Pats wide receiver Aaron Dobson last Tuesday and was benched for the rest of the workout.

Williams explained Sunday that he did it on purpose in an effort to send a message that the Eagles' defense would not allow itself to be pushed around. He spoke with former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins about the need to bring a nasty, aggressive attitude to the defense that's been missing those traits in recent seasons.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick dismissed Williams' claims Monday, telling Boston.com that the Patriots "have moved on."

Williams said he met with Eagles coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman before practice Monday and claimed his statements Sunday were taken out of context.

"I wasn't making a comment to give (Kelly) grief on it," Williams said Monday. "I wasn't trying to be a jerk about it. I'm a team player. I'm just trying to help build a culture and try and bring that nastiness to the defense."

Williams hasn't been on the field long enough to help establish any culture. Besides getting ejected last week, he's missed a lot of time during training camp with a strained hamstring. Monday's workout was only the fourth time he's made it through a full practice since training camp began roughly three weeks ago.

He is expected to be in the starting lineup when the Eagles continue the preseason by playing host to Carolina at the Linc on Thursday.

There may also be some other changes in the secondary. Rookie safety Earl Wolff, the Eagles' fifth-round draft pick from North Carolina State, replaced Nate Allen when the first-team defense took the field for practice Monday.

Davis was quick to point out that the promotion was not permanent, that Allen would be back with the starters today but that another sloppy effort against the Panthers may prompt him to give Wolff and some other younger players a shot.

"I was excited to be out there today," Wolff said. "It shows the coaches are trusting me more and more every day, and trust is very important in the game of football. It gives me confidence.

"No matter where they put me, I'm just going to keep working as hard as I can to get better. I know I can be a great safety in this league. My goal is to be the best safety in the NFL."

Extra points: Guard Danny Watkins did not practice. He was diagnosed with a concussion after he showed up complaining of headaches. Nate Menkin took his spot at right guard with the first-team offense during practice.

Rookie tackle Lane Johnson missed practiced but is expected to be back today. Johnson left the team Saturday to be with his wife, Chelsea, who gave birth to the couple's first child.

Long-snapper Jon Dorenbos (concussion), running back Bryce Brown (strained quadriceps), linebackers Phillip Hunt (sprained knee) and Casey Matthews (sprained knee), safety Kenny Phillips (strained quadriceps) and tackle Ed Wang (sprained knee) did not practice. Tackle Jason Peters (strained hamstring) practiced on a limited basis.

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