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August 14, 2023

Eagles training camp game ball: Reed Blankenship solidifies starting safety job

Continuing with PhillyVoice's 'game ball' training camp series, Jason Kelce and Reed Blankenship were the standouts at the Eagles' joint practice against the Browns on Monday.

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8.6.23_EaglesPractice_Reed-Blankenship-0250.jpg Colleen Claggett/for PhillyVoice

Reed Blankenship #22 of the Philadelphia Eagles takes the field during practice at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. on August 6, 2023.

The Eagles held their first joint practice of the summer Monday evening against the Cleveland Browns. In addition to our "Hurts Watch" series and Jimmy Kempski's practice notes, we've been handing out a "game ball" to a member of both the Eagles' offense and defense after each training camp practice here at PhillyVoice. 

Here's more on my two choices for practice No. 11...

Offensive game ball: C Jason Kelce

Let's get something straight: No one on the Eagles' offense deserves a game ball for Monday evening's practice. The Browns' defense thoroughly won the day. Kenny Gainwell and D'Andre Swift had a few nice reps. DeVonta Smith hauled in a couple of nice catches, but some of them were ultimately "sacks" that Jalen Hurts played through and hurled downfield. 

The Eagles' offensive line disappointed, especially by the standards of the league's best unit. I'm not breaking any news here, but Myles Garrett is absolutely dominant. Jordan Mailata is a great anchor at left tackle and even he stood no match for Garrett in a couple of 1-on-1 drills. 

I'm going to go with Jason Kelce though. His technique was impeccable in 1-on-1 reps. He completely controlled Browns defensive tackle Trysten Hill. It's a theme that's defined Kelce's career: he stayed low and out-worked a bigger player. 

That's about it.

Call it a lifetime achievement game ball. He also did a great rendition of "Fly Eagles Fly" at the Mt. Joy concert at The Mann Center on Sunday night, so maybe we can shoehorn that into his candidacy. 

Tuesday's a new day for the Birds.

Defensive game ball: S Reed Blankenship

The Birds' defense fared much better than the team's offense, but I'd still give the edge to the Browns in that matchup. Reed Blankenship stood out amidst an otherwise uneven performance from the Eagles' D. 

Putting some tip drill work in, Blankenship caught an interception off Deshaun Watson after a deflection from new linebacker Zach Cunningham. Blankenship nearly had a diving pick later in practice as well. The second-year safety has been active with a nose for the ball all summer. 

Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai, speaking to the media before practice, remained mum on the timeline to name starters at linebacker and safety, but there is one lock among that group and it's Blankenship. Sydney Brown has some juice and is active, but he's still on a development curve. Justin Evans has received some first-team reps, but he's a long shot to actually start. Terrell Edmunds has struggled at times in camp, though I do wonder if the Eagles' base defense may be a three-safety look between Blankenship, Brown and Edmunds with just a single true linebacker out there. At minimum, Blankenship has to be out there.

Calling any safety the Eagles drafted in the post-Brian Dawkins era the "Next Dawkins" became a running gag in the fan base, but the best homegrown safety they've had since Quintin Mikell is another undrafted guy! Blankenship was the most impactful rookie on a Super Bowl team in 2022 and that's much more than the Jaiquawn Jarretts of the world can say. He's a gamer. 

The Eagles will hold their second and final joint practice with the Browns on Tuesday ahead of Thursday's home preseason game. Stay tuned to PhillyVoice for more Eagles analysis. 

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