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July 22, 2017

Eagles training camp preview: Safety

Eagles NFL
071817RodneyMcLeod Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Rodney McLeod

On Monday, there will be football again, as quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans will report for training camp. Leading up to camp, we'll be taking a look at each positional group. Today we'll preview the safeties.

 QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | OG/C | K/P 
DE | DT | LB | CB

First, here's a look at the depth chart at safety:

 Eagles safeties 1 2
 SMalcolm Jenkins  Jaylen WatkinsChris Maragos 
 S Rodney McLeodTerrence Brooks Tre Sullivan (R) 

After a long stretch in which the Eagles had some pretty crappy safety play, the Eagles finally had a duo they could be proud of last season in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod.

Jenkins is a great player. In previous years with the Eagles, he did an outstanding job putting himself in position to make huge plays, and while he capitalized on some of those opportunities, he left some of the table. The difference between finishing those big plays – and not – was arguably the difference between Jenkins being a great safety and an Ed Reed-type of safety.

In 2016, Jenkins made the most of his big play opportunities, although there were far fewer of them because he was tasked with playing slot corner after Ron Brooks was lost for the season.

Jenkins can do everything. Need him to play single high? He can do that. Need him to slide down into the slot and cover receivers or tight ends man-to-man? He can do that. Need him to play in the box and be physical against the run? He can do that. Want to send him on a blitz? He can do that.

There are no obvious flaws to Jenkins' game, and he is, in my view, a top-five safety in the NFL.

McLeod started off the season hot, making big hits and producing turnovers, but as the season progressed, he became more passive. McLeod is at his best when he's flying around, unafraid of making a mistake. If he can get back to being that kind of player in 2017, the Eagles will once again have one of the best safety duos in the NFL.

As for the Eagles' depth at safety, there's a very interesting battle between Jaylen Watkins and Terrence Brooks for the No. 3 safety job.

Watkins has really improved as a tackler from when he first got to Philly, but he struggled at times with mental errors, which led to some busted coverages. The Eagles would love to see someone step up and take the No. 3 safety job away from him.

The best chance for that is Brooks. Last season, Brooks only played three snaps in the regular defense on the season, but he made them count, picking off Eli Manning to seal the Eagles' win over the Giants Week 16. Otherwise, he was a special teams contributor only, and often inactive on game day.

During the spring, Brooks has looked good in practices. Physically, Brooks is jacked up, and has the ability to deliver big hits over the middle. He could be a fun player to watch once the pads go on.

As for the Eagles' deeper depth at safety, Chris Maragos returns as one of the best special teamers in the league and a decent enough option at safety in emergency situations. The Eagles also signed Tre Sullivan during the undrafted free agency phase of the draft. In watching some of his play in college, Sullivan is willing throw his body around and hit people.

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