Leading up to training camp on July 25, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We have already covered the defensive line, quarterbacks, outside linebackers, running backs, inside linebackers, cornerbacks and wide receivers. Now it’s on to the safeties.
The pressing question: Have the Eagles finally stabilized the safety position?
The Eagles’ top free-agent signing this offseason was former Saint Malcolm Jenkins. Many fans were hoping for either Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward, but Chip Kelly instead targeted Jenkins, whom he viewed as a good scheme and character fit. Jenkins ran with the first team opposite Nate Allen this spring while Earl Wolff played mostly with the twos. The team also used a fifth-round draft choice on Stanford’s Ed Reynolds.
It appears they have upgraded the position overall. Patrick Chung is gone after a disappointing season in Philadelphia. The combination of Jenkins/Allen or Jenkins/Wolff promises to be better than the tandems deployed last year. Whether that’s good enough will prove out over the course of the season.
Allen, Jenkins and Wolff are expected to occupy three of the spots. Chris Maragos was brought in via free agency to bolster special teams and has a good chance of making the team. The Eagles kept five safeties last year. If they go with the same number this time around, the final spot could go to either Reynolds, Keelan Johnson or rookie free agent Daytawion Lowe.
Reynolds is the likely favorite. Johnson didn’t help his cause this week, as he was arrested in Tempe, Arizona and reportedly charged with assaulting a police officer.
One thing I think
The lack of a physical presence among the projected starters is concerning.
Billy Davis‘ scheme doesn’t require a thumping box safety. The Eagles want their safeties to be interchangeable and able to take on a variety of roles in the pass game, so it’s not exactly set up for a traditional enforcer. Still, it’s valuable to have players in the back end that can deliver a momentum-turning hit and make opponents think twice about going over the middle, and the Eagles don’t appear to have that with the Allen-Jenkins pairing.
Tackling could be an issue.
Jenkins was charged with 16 missed tackles last season according to Pro Football Focus, fifth most among safeties. He had 20 the year before that. Allen improved in the tackling department last year — he had 13 missed tackles over 871 snaps in 2012 compared to seven missed tackles over 1,200 snaps last season — but it is still not his strength.
Wolff has a physical element to his game but the second-year safety enters training camp behind Allen on the depth chart.
WHAT YOU MISSED
After last season, Chip Kelly knows Nick Foles won’t crack under pressure.
“Did the Eagles do enough to improve their defense? Looked at one way, the answer seems like a big ‘no.'” What they’re saying.
Our training camp position previews continue with the wide receivers.
Officials, not the Eagles, have to adjust to the increasing speed of the game.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Joseph Santoliquito of CBS Philly raises five questions heading into training camp:
Is Nick Foles a one-year wonder?
No. After tossing 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 2013 over 13 games, it’s hard to believe that Foles still has doubters. But they are there. What is hard to dismiss is that Foles led the Eagles from a 20-7 deficit in the wildcard playoff loss to New Orleans to a 24-23 lead with 4:54 left to play.
In 2012, it was Foles that snapped an eight-game losing streak by guiding the Eagles on a 13-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a game-winning touchdown on a last-second one-yard TD toss to Jeremy Maclin. It was Foles that was 17 for 26 in the most crucial game of the year in the season finale at Dallas, which clinched a playoff berth and a six-game turnaround from the 2012 debacle.
Allen Rodriguez of Bleeding Green Nation explains why he believes Jeremy Maclin is overrated:
In this process, I suppose I have figured out Jeremy Maclin’s one elite skill: tricking people into thinking he’s a really good receiver.
Maclin’s production is deceptive. He lacks skills, and most inexcusable is his lack of effort.
Now entering his 5th year, I fail to see anything that makes me excited about Maclin’s return. I’ll be happy to be wrong, but I’m unable to be optimistic.
Some All-22 love from Sheil. Players report in two days.
Josh Paunil contributed to the post.