After the first few weeks of free agency, it is clear that the 2023 Eagles will be different on defense from the 2022 squad. The spot most affected by this is the safety position. Going into last season, Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson were the safety tandem. However, Epps signed a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders and, with much fanfare, Gardner-Johnson signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Detroit Lions.
Both of those players were major pieces in a secondary that only allowed 171 yards per game last season. Epps started every game, including the playoffs, and Gardner-Johnson, while missing a chunk of the season, had 6 interceptions, which was tied for the league lead. One of the few problems of being a good team is that eventually, you’re going to lose some players because, in the salary cap world, it’s impossible to pay everybody
As of today, there are 3 players in the mix for the 2 starting safety positions. Second-year player Reed Blankenship and veterans Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans are all going to compete for position throughout the offseason and into the season. All of them will get opportunities to showcase themselves, but I think there’s 1 player among the group that has a leg up on the competition, Reed Blankenship.
Made the most of his Eagles debut
Coming into last season, Blankenship was largely an unknown. He went undrafted after playing 5 years at Middle Tennessee State. He impressed enough in training camp to stay with the team, and in week 5 made his NFL debut. Most of his time was spent as a special teamer until Gardner-Johnson got injured.
He quickly made a name for himself by picking off Aaron Rodgers in that same game. After that, he earned some trust from the Eagles’ coaching staff and continued to play well in his role. In 10 total games, 4 being starts, he recorded 1 interception, 2 passes defended, and 34 total tackles.
I think that the Eagles internally like what they have in Blankenship. If they completely lacked confidence in his ability to become a starting-caliber player, I don’t think they would have let the previous 2 starters walk away so easily. The Eagles have had success finding under-the-radar safeties in the past and I think they may have found another one.
Epps was originally a 6th-round pick by the Vikings and cut before coming to Philly and Gardner-Johnson wasn’t even a safety. Reed Blankenship may not be the flashiest player, but he has familiarity with the system and organization and has shown flashes of potential to where he could be a starter for this team.
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