November 29, 2022
In the first half of the Philadelphia Eagles' win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, starting safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was carted off with what we now know was a lacerated kidney.
If there is one position on the roster where the Eagles are thin on depth, it's probably at safety, where the backup options are K'Von Wallace, who has been shaky in his opportunities to play in the regular defense, and Reed Blankenship, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Middle Tennessee State.
The Eagles turned to Blankenship, who ended up having a rather eventful night. There was good and bad, but he was mostly ready to play when his number was called.
Blankenship's highlight of the night came on his interception of Aaron Rodgers. Fran Duffy focused on the play call itself, which confused Rodgers, who threw into what he thought was a single high safety look that wasn't.
"I was cross-keying, and saw Aaron Rodgers looking that way, and I broke on it," Blankenship said. "I'm surprised he actually threw it. I'm happy I got there in time."
The Packers also tried to test him on an over route later in the game, and it led to a sack because Blankenship was in the right position. The Packers run play action to the RB, and then to a receiver in motion, and Rodgers is looking for Christian Watson (the receiver at the top of the screen) coming across the field from left to right. Blankenship is there, and Josh Sweat sacks Rodgers.
Blankenship was also good against the run. Here he is in the middle of the field. Note that he reads this play before anyone else in the secondary, and gets a huge head start in tracking down Aaron Jones.
Here's another run play. What I liked here is that Blankenship does not allow to the pile to be pushed after he initially stands up Jones.
Another run play. Nothing special here, but this was one example of Blankenship finishing off a runner who was trying to fight through a tackle. He had several plays like this on Sunday.
And finally, the bad. On Watson's touchdown, Blankenship took a bad angle on the play, and Watson out-raced him to the end zone.
Blankenship ran a 4.55 40 at Middle Tennessee's pro day. Watson ran a 4.36 at the Combine, and you can see the difference show up on the field. There are plenty of starting safeties around the NFL who run a 4.55 or similar, but there may be an adjustment period for Blankenship getting used to the speed of the NFL.
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