Eagles’ fans last year were pained at times watching their beloved team give up a league worst 4,636 total passing yards and yielding the most passing yards per game (289.8). Opponents were highly effective throwing the ball on the Eagles secondary throughout the year, and much of that, in my opinion, is attributed to the shaky Philadelphia safety play.
Re-signed in the off season; safety Nate Allen was probably the most consistent player, but some still argue he is not a great fit for the Eagles. The other starting safeties for parts of the season were Earl Wolff and Patrick Chung who both battled shoulder (Chung) and knee (Wolff) injuries throughout the year.
I wrote back before the draft that Alabama Safety Ha’Sean “Ha-ha” Clinton-Dix would be a perfect fit for the Eagles defense. Some of his best attributes are that Clinton-Dix is a ball-hawking safety who is very instinctive and fluid in coverage, and he can match up well with opponents’ slot receivers. He also does a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes and has good vision to break on the ball. But it was not to be, as GM Howie Roseman and team chose Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith 26th overall.
To recap, the Eagles have a bit of a mess in the secondary, and didn’t obtain a blue chip guy in the draft; in walks free agent safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins is a versatile safety who’s lean, 6-foot 204 pound frame can match up with receivers in the secondary, or he can get up to the line of scrimmage and stop the run if needed. The six year NFL veteran is also a champion having captained the New Orleans Saints for two season while winning Super Bowl XLIV.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said of Jenkins, “He’s been outstanding! I think he’s an extremely intelligent football player and that obviously showed just from the first day we got a chance to get on the field with them. He’s played multiple positions before in this league. So he understands the stress on the corners and what that is.”
As if on cue, Jenkins snagged the first interception of the Philadelphia Eagles 2014 Training Camp when he used veteran savvy to rob Eagles quarterback Nick Foles this past Wednesday. During team drills, the Eagles defense was in a Cover-0 formation, and Jenkins cut the route picking off Foles which drew praise from teammate linebacker DeMeco Ryans when he told reporters,
“He’s added that true leadership to our backend that we needed. He’s a guy who has stepped in and been vocal, a guy who has stepped in and made plays for us.” Ryans continued, “He’s not afraid to make the calls. He steps in. He’s done a great job fitting right in with our defense. He’s the piece we’ve been missing. He’s really added a lot of experience to our defense, a lot of smarts. We really need him.”
Jenkins stole a second interception on Wednesday as well, and continues to impress his coaches and teammates. Malcom needs to be the “quarterback” of the Eagles secondary, and so far is showing that he can take on that role. If he can be the steady, veteran piece to the puzzle Philadelphia needs him to be, he might finally allow fans to forget the day former Eagles stalwart safety Brian Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos back in 2009.