Have the Eagles finally found a safety they can hang their hat on?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 14: Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is pictured prior to the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles on October 14, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

There have been a lot of great Philadelphia Eagles safeties over the past 20 years or so. Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Dawkins, Quintin Mikell are just three that come to mind. But over the last few years, there has been a real struggle to find stability in the defensive backfield. Howie Roseman will be hoping the drafting of Sydney Brown bucks that trend.

There has very much been a revolving door at Safety since the departure of Malcolm Jenkins. They did try to find long-term solutions such as K’Von Wallace, while underdogs like Epps and most recently, Reed Blankenship, have continued to grind their way up the special teams ladder en-route to defensive opportunities. However, it’s been a while since the Birds have really been able to hang their hat on a Safety.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 21: New Orleans Saints Safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) looks on before the game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles on November 21, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Enter Sydney Brown.

Who is Sydney Brown?

The Illinois graduate started 50 games during a five-year span, racking up 319 tackles, 10 picks, 26 pass breakups, and 10 tackles for loss. As the stats would suggest, Brown is a versatile player who spent a lot of time in the box at College, but his upside is much higher than that.

When you look at Sydney, the way they used him at Illinois, they used him a lot around the box. He would blitz, he’d cover a tight end, he’d play in the run game, so you kind of had an incomplete evaluation. 

Then the Senior Bowl, which [Senior Bowl executive director] Jim Nagy’s staff did a tremendous job with there, they gave us the opportunity to see him being a post player, playing in the deep path, playing one-on-ones, and you saw the athleticism, and I think that really helped complete our process. 

Sydney Brown was a passion player for a lot of people in this organization, he was a red star guy, and I think just a tremendous person with obviously really good athletic tools, leadership ability, and for us, just excited to get him in the building.

Eagles GM Howie Roseman

Sydney Brown’s skillset is beyond intriguing. He’s an explosive athlete which is what makes him so dangerous in the box. His ability to burst off the line and sift through traffic is eyebrow-raising and there is no sense of intimidation when having to navigate offensive linemen, or cover tight ends as Howie Roseman mentioned. But when in coverage is where Brown arguably shines even more.

He plays much larger than his 5’10 frame suggests and is able to stay in phase with both tight ends and wideouts. When playing man-coverage, he demonstrates aggressive jams at the line but will always attack the catch-point as opposed to the ball-carrier, which can generate some game-changing plays. He feasts at the top of routes and may well be better suited to playing an overhang role where he can click-and-close on a ball-carrier.

The Eagles Safety has plenty of growing room

Sydney Brown does have his weaknesses. For a traditional box safety, a 16.5% missed tackle rate, per PFF, is simply not good enough. This stems from his aggressive nature. The technique itself is very secure, but the angles are often targeted at the lower body, which means a quick juke or jump can leave him in the dust. He’s currently a ‘feast or famine’ DB who does struggle when moving sideline-to-sideline, but as a north-south player, he’s a homing missile.

If there is ever an area to hone your tackling craft, it’s on a special teams unit that has really regressed in recent years. It didn’t take Michael Clay, the Eagles’ Special Teams Coordinator, long to forecast a role for Sydney Brown.

Sydney Brown did a heck of a job in terms of his career at Illinois. Him and Devin Witherspoon were their gunners, and having the opportunity for those guys coming in with their speed and the prowess of playing some special teams, coming in, I think it’s only going to make this team better because competition usually breeds the greatness in everything.

Michael Clay

Whether Sydney Brown graduates from Clay’s special teams class or becomes an impact player on the Eagles defense much sooner, he ticks all the boxes the Eagles could ever need. A great athlete who is aggressive, physical, and versatile. If he can just work out how to leverage his tackling angles and play in a role where his lateral speed won’t be a key focus, he could well become a cornerstone of this defense in years to come.

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire