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May 06, 2023

Eagles rookie Sydney Brown 'absolutely' ready to compete for starting safety job

There's clear opportunity for Brown, the third-round safety out of Illinois, but a lot to do and learn before then.

The Eagles have a clear opening at safety, and when the time comes, Sydney Brown is sure he'll be ready to try and answer the call. 

But the third-round pick (at 66th overall) only just got to Philadelphia, along with the rest of the Eagles' incoming rookies for minicamp. A starting job won't be won today. 

But if everything lines up come September?

"Absolutely," Brown said of being ready for the prospect of playing time from the jump. "But I think right now, it's just about learning the defense, competing, just being the best version of myself every day, improving, earning respect, I think that's my mindset going into this.

"Yeah, there's an opportunity to start, but it's about what I do and how I earn the respect of the guys around me, especially guys that have been here for much longer than I have."

That takes time, and again, he only just got here. But his head seems to be in the right place, so that's a good start. 

Identified as a "red star" player by the organization during the draft process – someone who, general manager Howie Roseman said, exemplifies what it means to be an Eagle – Brown is coming in with tons of athleticism, commendable character and work ethic, an impressive résumé built up at Illinois, and an evaluation that – after the Senior Bowl – showed the promise of versatility between playing up near the line of scrimmage and covering downfield. 

While at Illinois, the defensive scheme called for him to play up front, so he did without issue. The problem, however, was when it came to scouting, the Eagles couldn't get a full read of his capabilities in scenarios where he would have to play back. The Senior Bowl freed him up to show off, and he impressed. 

"I had a responsibility and that was to play strong safety at Illinois, and it was to be the best damn strong safety there is in the Big Ten," Brown said. "That was my job, and I took that to heart. At the Senior Bowl, they gave me an opportunity to play in the slot, play in the post, show my range, and show that I can play sideline to sideline and make plays from that end."

And if Brown can translate that range and ability to the pro level, it would be a huge boost to the Eagles' defensive backfield.

Based on the extremely early depth chart right now, they're willing to bank on it.

The Eagles retained Darius Slay and James Bradberry to bring back 2022's best cornerback duo, and now have Kelee Ringo waiting in the wings behind them. Avonte Maddox is also back as the slot corner, but at safety, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps left in free agency, leaving Brown, Reed Blankenship, and one-year signing Terrell Edmunds as the expected three to compete for the two starting spots. 

Compared to the 2022 roster, this is a relatively unproven group, and there won't be a good feel for who's who until training camp and the preseason get going in the back half of the summer. 

But because of that, the 23-year old Brown has time, to learn a system, to ask coaches and vets questions, and to get some early reps in. 

A starting job won't be won today. 

"They're throwing a lot of information at you," Brown said of the early going at minicamp. "But at the end of the day, you've played all the positions so you just gotta simplify it, attack it, study, study, study, study until it's unconscious competence.

"Can I say [study] enough?"

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