Philadelphia Eagles Position Breakdown: Safety


Although the Philadelphia Eagles lack quality options at safety, it’s not for lack of effort on the front office’s behalf: First, in the 2014 NFL Draft, Chip Kelly and Co. whiffed on Alabama star Ha Ha Clinton-Dix when he was snatched up by the Packers, and then again when they were spurned by All-Pro Devin McCourty in free agency. The Eagles’ brass has clearly put an emphasis on resolving the safety issue, and its attempt to allocate precious resources is direct evidence of this. Nevertheless, the safety situation remains largely unresolved, and, for the moment, rests on the imminent camp battle.

For all of the turmoil that has surrounded the Eagles’ safety position in recent years, it appears that Malcolm Jenkins has solidified one of the two starting positions. Having turned in the best season by an Eagles safety in roughly a half decade, Jenkins was a breath of fresh air for a defensive unit previously mired by horrific safety play.

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When the Eagles reeled in Jenkins during free agency, the biggest takeaway was the versatility he offered and his congruence with the Chip Kelly archetype. At 6’1″ and 204lbs with 32 3/8 inch arms, and the ability to play both single high and the slot, Jenkins fit the Eagles’ physical profile to the T. Beyond that, Jenkins has fulfilled a much needed leadership role in the secondary, and continues to be a role model for younger, less experienced players.

Entering his second season with the team, Jenkins is firmly entrenched as a starter, and will continue to play a pivotal role in the Eagles’ secondary. Jenkins importance to the team can not be understated, as he is among the most important starters on the roster. Given the stability he has brought to the safety position, and severe lack of depth behind him, an injury to Jenkins would be devastating to the Eagles defense.

For the moment, the clear favorite to assume starting duties opposite of the aforementioned Jenkins, is veteran Walter Thurmond. While Thurmond has experience in a variety of roles and is the most physically and mentally capable player to fulfill the role, his chronic durability concerns are, well, concerning, to say the least.

While questions loom regarding whether or not Thurmond can make the transition to safety, his inability to stay healthy in recent years remains the primary concern. Thurmond played only 2 games in 2014, and has never played a full 16 game slate in his career. Still, when healthy, Thurmond has been a good NFL player, and can be a playmaker for the Eagles should he manage to stay off the injured reserve.

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Thurmond has played a variety of roles throughout his NFL career, competing both outside and in the slot. By all accounts, Thurmond took well to safety during spring practices, demonstrating good ability in man coverage and plus instincts.

Due to the lack of quality options at safety, Thurmond is the favorite to start opposite of Jenkins, however, an untimely camp injury could quickly derail his hopes of securing the starting role. Should this be the case, Billy Davis would have to turn to one of the uninspiring depth options on the back end of the roster. Otherwise, expect Thurmond to run away with the job.

Of the less enticing options at safety, no one player has really distinguished himself to this point in the process, further muddying the roster picture.

Former 5th round pick Earl Wolff should be the clear favorite to assume primary backup duties, and possibly even compete for the starting vacancy, however, his inability to stay on the field has landed him in Chip Kelly’s dog house. Whether Kelly is justified in his indictment of Wolff is open for interpretation, but one thing is clear: the longer Wolff is off the field, the less opportunities he will be afforded, and the lower his odds are of earning a role in any capacity. Heading into training camp, Wolff will be fighting to get himself back in Kelly’s good graces and earn his roster slot.

Although Wolff has been oft injured, he flashed starting potential at times in 2013, which is more than can be said of his camp competition. The next man in the pecking order is likely Chris Maragos, who, while undoubtedly a key special teams piece, is not a viable starting option.

Similarly to Maragos, Chris Prosinski fits the mold of special teams ace and offers very little in way of starting potential. While I expect Maragos to be a mortal lock for the final 53, it remains to be seen whether or not Prosinski will retain his roster spot. It’s conceivable that the Eagles opt to keep a player with more starter upside than the special teams aces (although Chip’s affinity for collecting special teams talent is well documented). Should that be the case, Prosinski could be on the outside looking in following camp.

One player that possesses intriguing upside is Jerome Couplin. Couplin’s tantalizing measurables could prove worth gambling on, as the team lacks other compelling options. Meanwhile, 2014 fifth round pick Ed Reynolds is hoping to make more of an impression on the coaching staff this summer as he only did enough to land a spot on the practice squad last season. Reynolds is another player who will be competing for a spot on the back-end of the roster.

In all likelihood, Jenkins, Thurmond, Maragos, and Prosinski will all find homes on the Eagles roster. While Wolff, Couplin, and Reynolds will be fighting for one roster spot.

Next: Philadlephia Eagles Position Breakdown: Outside Linebacker

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