The Eagles started the offseason with an aging roster and more than a handful of needs. Among the team’s most pressing needs was safety. Rodney McLeod was set to hit free agency and a big question mark loomed over Malcolm Jenkins. The Eagles filled their safety spots by resigning Rodney McLeod and moving Jalen Mills to the other safety spot once he re-signed. Following those moves, the team signed North Philadelphia native, Will Parks.
The common theme running through all three of those deals is that they are all one-year contracts. If it doesn’t pan out for all three veterans here in Philly, then the Eagles can move on, which leads to what Howie Roseman did during and after this year’s draft. It’s been said that the Eagles were debating drafting Jeremy Chin, J.K. Dobbins, or Jalen Hurts in the second round. The unpredictable happened when they selected the QB out of Oklahoma.
Still, though, Eagles GM Howie Roseman had a plan and if we know anything about Howie, it’s that he never shows his hand. The Eagles surprised Philadelphia when they drafted K’Von Wallace in the fourth round of the draft – a Clemson product who many regard as a steal. Unbenounced to many though, Howie had a huge wildcard up his sleeve.
After the draft, the Eagles were rampant in undrafted free agency and among those signed was a player who was highly coveted by the front office – junior defensive back out of Baylor, Grayland Arnold. Grayland started 11 games at the Safety position. He’s a part of the new breed of defensive backs that can do it all, very similar to newly signed Eagle, Will Parks. He finished his junior season with 46 total tackles, 33 of them solo tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, and 6 interceptions. Let’s not forget that he also played a key role on special teams as he returned 12 punts for 149 yards and 1 touchdown. He averaged 12.4 yards per return.
What’s interesting though is that although Arnold signed as a cornerback, it appears that he’s moving to Free Safety, learning under Rodney McLeod, who is vocally leading the locker room through a tumultuous period without OTA’s. At 5-10, 187 lbs, he’s the same height as McLeod and 8 pounds lighter.
The move makes sense. There’s already an intense battle at cornerback and depth is plentiful when it comes to developmental talent. If his size would likely leave him fighting for a nickel role, getting into a scrap with Cre’Von LeBlanc and Nickell Robey-Coleman would be a monumental task. At Safety, the chance to sneak onto the roster seems greater, and if those prove-it deals do expire, having a secret weapon to develop under the radar is absolutely one worth noting.
Grayland is no stranger to being an underdog and is now heading to a city that’s full of them. In an interview on today’s Flippin’ The Birds podcast, he mentioned just how hard he’s had to work to make it to where he is now.
“I’m from a high school, a town, where we never had an athlete go to a power school like Baylor”, he said. “I used to make the ladders, that you do the footwork drills with chains.”
He went on to emphasize that he’s no stranger to having the odds against him.
“I feel like I’m more of a get it out the mud type. I feel like I’ve been beating the odds, leading up to Baylor, even at Baylor.”
While Grayland is focused on making his imprint within this Eagles team, he’s also had a chance to take a step back and admire the players and culture around him. When asked about his thoughts on getting to play with Darius Slay, Grayland sighed in excitement stating,
“Man, I don’t even know if he knows how excited I am, you know, a lot of those don’t even know how excited I am.”
He continued to praise the veterans on their knowledge of the game, as well as to how they live as he mentioned the moment Darius Slay “hopped into his Wraith” at the start of a team meeting.
“We on the same call, you know, not even on no star-struck or no fan stuff, it’s just like I’m grateful and I’m blessed…but at the same time I’m ready to compete with you, you push me to a high level, I’m looking forward to that.”
Grayland is determined and is already embracing what it is to be an Eagle, even sharing the same dislike that his rookie teammate, K’Von Wallace, has for the rival Cowboys. When asked about who his favorite team is, mind you, Grayland did grow up in Texas. The rookie safety stated,
“I know you’re probably thinking that Cowboys,” before we mentioned that K’Von came on the podcast and stated that he’s “always hated the F—kin Cowboys”. Grayland laughed and said, “ I’m with it, I’m with it…”
Fortunately for Eagles fans, Grayland didn’t hesitate to state afterward, “Oh yea, I hate the Cowboys. We’re going to whip their ass.”
The Eagles have a very promising secondary with Darius Slay leading the charge and the two new rookies, K’Von Wallace and Grayland Arnold being groomed by Rodney McLeod. Grayland was a ballhawk in college who, according to him, never looked at any ball coming his way as a “50-50 ball” but instead as “that’s mine.” The energy that Grayland brings to the field accompanied by his humble mindset will evolve into a defensive back that can grow into a leader of any defense.
While the NFL continues to work around COVID-19, Grayland Arnold is hard at work in Houston, Texas with footwork trainer, Rischad Whitfield. Arnold is making the best of his time by staying as ready as he can be with one goal in mind, to show the world that he deserves to be on this stage.
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports