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July 19, 2023

Eagles 2023 training camp preview: Safety

Taking a look at one of the Eagles weakest positions.

Eagles NFL
6.1.23_EaglesSydney-Brown_ColleenClaggett-9588.jpg Colleen Claggett/for PhillyVoice

Sydney Brown (21)

Over the last few weeks (basically whenever there wasn't other news to cover), we've been taking a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team heading into training camp. Today we'll look at the safeties.

Previous training camp previews

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver
Tight end | Offensive tackle | Interior offensive line
Edge rusher | Interior defensive line | Off-ball linebacker

Safety will be an interesting position to evaluate throughout training camp. There are three players — Reed Blankenship, Terrell Edmunds, and Sydney Brown — who are competing for two starting safety roles. There is also a perception (that I don't agree with) that the Eagles need to add to the safety group between now the start of the regular season. 

First, the depth chart:

Reed Blankenship Sydney Brown K'Von Wallace
Terrell Edmunds Justin Evans Tristin McCollum

Terrell Edmunds

Edmunds was a 2018 first-round pick of the Steelers who played out his rookie contract in Pittsburgh before hitting the open market in 2022. The Steelers had declined to exercise his fifth-year option the previous offseason. Still, he ended up signing back with the Steelers in 2022 on a one-year deal during which he made roughly $2.5 million. In 2022, he had 70 tackles, 2 sacks, and 5 pass breakups. He signed with the Eagles this offseason on a one-year deal worth $2 million.

Edmunds has good size at 6'1, 217, and before last season he had never missed a game due to injury. He was a first-round pick partly because of his impressive athleticism:

At 26, Edmunds is still fairly young, and yet he's the most experienced of the Eagles' safeties, by far:

 Eagles safetiesGames (starts) Career snaps played 
Terrell Edmunds 79 (75) 4897 
Justin Evans 39 (25) 1713 
K'Von Wallace 45 (7) 550 
 Reed Blankenship10 (4) 291 
Sydney Brown 0 (0) 
Tristin McCollum 0 (0) 

*Regular season only

Edmunds' experience should give him a leg up on the Eagles' younger safeties. It's also perhaps worth noting that Edmunds is effective in the box, so with the Eagles' lack of depth at linebacker, perhaps he could play something of a safety/linebacker hybrid role?

Reed Blankenship

Blankenship was probably the Eagles' most impactful rookie last season, collecting 34 tackles, two pass breakups, and one INT. He made the team out of training camp as an undrafted rookie free agent, and began the season as the No. 4 safety. At some point during the season, he leapfrogged K’Von Wallace for the No. 3 safety role, and was called on to start after Gardner-Johnson went down with his kidney injury against the Packers. In that Packers game, Blankenship intercepted Aaron Rodgers and made several nice plays in run defense.

With Gardner-Johnson out, Blankenship would start against the Titans, Giants, Cowboys, and Saints, playing well overall in those four games. Upon Gardner-Johnson's return to the lineup, Blankenship still kept a role. Gardner-Johnson started at safety in the base defense but moved to the slot in nickel with Blankenship coming off the bench to play safety.

He'll have an opportunity to start in 2023.

Sydney Brown

In the third round of the 2023 draft, the Eagles selected Brown, a high-level athlete.

Brown was a highly productive player for Illinois in 2022, making 60 tackles, 6 INTs (plus a pick-six), a forced fumble, and a fumble return for a TD. He makes plays, and he's a big hitter:

Brown often played up near the line of scrimmage for Illinois, which made him a difficult evaluation for some teams, who require their safeties to patrol the deeper areas of the field. Howie Roseman said that the Senior Bowl was instrumental in determining that Brown could handle deep responsibilities as well as being an enforcer in the box. That'll be something to keep an eye on during camp.

Brown is also thought to be a high character person, given that he made it to the NFL despite growing up in extreme poverty.

Safety is a difficult position to master immediately at the NFL level, but Brown will have a chance to start as a rookie.

Justin Evans

Evans was a Bucs second-round pick (50th overall) in 2017 out of Texas A&M. He had a productive rookie season in 2017 (in the stat sheet, at least), when he had 66 tackles, 3 INTs, and 6 pass breakups. However, his career has since been derailed by injuries.

• In 2017, he was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, and he missed the last 2 games of the regular season.

• In 2018, he missed six games with a toe injury, once again landing on injured reserve to finish the season.

• In 2019, he missed the entirety of the season with an Achilles injury.

• In 2020, he started training camp on the PUP list, and was waived in December with a failed physical designation.

• In 2021, he wasn't on an NFL roster.

• In 2022, he signed with the Saints and played in 15 games, starting four. He missed the last two games with a shoulder injury.

The Eagles had interest in trading for Evans during training camp last year, but they instead ended up dealing for his then-teammate Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. I believe that Evans is a sleeper candidate to impress in camp.

K'Von Wallace

In 2022, Wallace played 164 snaps in the regular defense, and 323 on special teams. Wallace is a good tackler. He only has two missed tackles the last two seasons vs. 43 tackles, per However, he has not shown that he can be reliable in coverage, and there have been times he has been out of position against the run.

Wallace's ceiling might be as a core special teamer and depth safety, which means that his roster spot is far from guaranteed. He is a bubble player, but in my opinion more likely to make the initial 53 than not.

Tristin McCollum

McCollum is a 6'3 defensive back who was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Texans' in 2022. McCollum has mostly played corner in his college and profession careers, but the Eagles had him at safety in OTAs.

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