Eagles Training Camp Preview: Who will rise to the top of the Safety group?

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles safety Reed Blankenship (46) warms up during pre-season game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles on August 12, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

If there is one position lacking full clarity heading into Philadelphia Eagles training camp, it’s the safety spot. Reed Blankenship and Terrell Edmunds are penciled in as the starters and took first-team reps at OTAs. They remain the betting favorites to win those jobs, but nothing is guaranteed. Expect strong competition as the temperatures ramp up when players report on July 25.

“The fun thing is we got a lot of guys that we can go to, and they get to compete every day which is fun,” new defensive backs coach D.K. McDonald told reporters on June 1. “And that’s one of the hallmarks of this organization, that they get to compete and that’s what they’re doing. That’s what right now is all about and that’s what camp is all about, it’s guys going out and competing and seeing who can step up.”

Evaluating the Eagles Safety Depth Chart

Terrell Edmunds: Consistency and experience are the buzzwords associated with the former first-round pick. He was a steady presence on the backend for the Pittsburgh Steelers over five seasons and 75 starts there. Not flashy or splashy, but solid in everything he did. Edmunds is a master at swarming to the ball, like an extra linebacker when forced inside the box, and can turn on the jets and accelerate to cover quicker receivers in coverage. He is sneaky fast: 4.47 seconds in the 40.

Reed Blankenship: He saw 291 defensive snaps, including four starts, as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2022. The 6-foot-1, 196-pounder proved to be a hard-hitting ballhawk in fill-in duty for C.J. Gardner-Johnson last year. Pro Football Focus listed Blankenship as their “breakout candidate” for the Eagles, citing his 76.2 grade which ranked him No. 21 at the position over the last seven weeks of the season. He’s also quickly morphed into a fan favorite due to his blue-collar style of play.

Sydney Brown: The third-round pick out of Illinois was labeled a “red-star guy” by general manager Howie Roseman. What does that mean? He exemplifies what it means to be an Eagle: great character, captain, testing numbers, intelligence, plays the way it should be played, and practices the way it should be played. Then, Brown went out and showed it on the field by making plays throughout OTAs. He has a legitimate chance to snake a starting spot within the Eagles defense.

Justin Evans: The 6-foot, 199-pounder fits the mold of a lottery pick for the Eagles. Evans was once a highly touted draft pick who hasn’t been able to escape injuries over his six NFL seasons. He actually missed three full seasons (2019, 2020, 2021). However, his tape pops like a Biggie Smalls’ verse. He surrendered only one touchdown on 30 targets while serving as a hybrid defensive back on 392 snaps at safety and nickel cornerback for New Orleans last year.

K’Von Wallace: There was a considerable hype surrounding Wallace heading into 2020 training camp. The plan had him mentoring behind Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills and then sliding into a starting role. It didn’t quite pan out that way. Now the one-time fourth-round pick out of Clemson finds himself on the roster bubble as he looks to prove he can be more than just a solid special-teams player in Philly.

Free Agency or Trade: Another Move Coming?

Don’t count the Eagles out from potentially upgrading the safety position before Week 1. Remember, the team waited until after training camp had ended last year to acquire C.J. Gardner-Johnson in a blockbuster trade. They could look to do the same thing in 2023, especially with rumors continuing to swirl around All-Pro Budda Baker.

Here are a few other names to keep an eye on for the Eagles in the weeks ahead:

Jeremy Chinn: The longest shot on the board for the Eagles since the Carolina Panthers seem intent on keeping him around, maybe even transitioning him to linebacker, but you never know. They might decide to start selling off starters in a rebuild situation.

John Johnson: The Cleveland Browns released the six-year veteran in a cost-cutting move after he recorded 101 combined tackles, 4 passes defensed, and 1 interception in 2022. Johnson is a guy who interested the Eagles back in 2021 with experience in playing in schemes similar to the one new defensive coordinator Sean Desai runs.

Lamarcus Joyner: The 32-year-old seems ready to ride off into the sunset after contemplating retirement ahead of the 2022 campaign. However, if Joyner wanted to chase a Super Bowl ring then Philly would be an ideal landing spot. He excelled in 14 starts for the New York Jets last season: 57 tackles, 6 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire