Eagles analysis

After breakout season, Blankenship makes list of important Eagles

As he returns for his second NFL season, Reed Blankenship has already earned a spot on the list of most important Eagles

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Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2023 season.

25. Nolan Smith
24. Quez Watkins
23. Kenny Gainwell
22. Marcus Mariota
21. Reed Blankenship

A year ago at this time, Reed Blankenship was a little-known undrafted free agent from Middle Tennessee State heading into his first NFL training camp. Not only that, but he had the second-lowest amount of guaranteed money — just $55,000 — in the UDFA class. 

He was a long shot.

But Blankenship began to shine from the moment the Eagles put on pads last summer. He made the roster and eventually got his chance to play thanks to injury. He made the most of it. As a rookie, Blankenship played in 10 games with 4 starts and showed the Eagles something. Enough to think Blankenship should be a starter in 2023.

Blankenship finished his rookie season with 34 tackles, 2 pass breakups and an interception that came off of Aaron Rodgers in the Eagles’ win over the Packers in November. He missed just two tackles all season.

While ProFootballFocus rankings should certainly be taken with a grain of salt, Blankenship ranked as the No. 9 best safety in the NFL last season with a grade of 79.4, just behind another Middle Tennessee State guy, All-Pro Kevin Byard. 

For comparison, last year’s starters C.J. Gardner-Johnson ranked 49th and Marcus Epps ranked 71st on PFF.

The big question with Blankenship is about how his play will translate as a full-time starter in 2023 if that’s the way things are heading. In OTAs, Blankenship and veteran Terrell Edmunds were the Eagles’ two starters at the safety position. Rookie third-round pick Sydney Brown is still down the depth chart.

“Honestly, nothing’s really changed,” Blankenship said this spring. “I love the game, I’m going to play it as long as my body allows me to. I don’t feel like I’ve arrived yet. I’m still staying humble, staying hungry, and that’s going to last throughout my career.”

This offseason, the Eagles made an attempt to re-sign Gardner-Johnson to a multi-year deal and when that didn’t happen they moved on. Eventually Gardner-Johnson landed in Detroit. And Epps signed with the Raiders.

And just like that, the Eagles had to rebuild their safety position. They signed Edmunds in free agency and drafted Brown in the third round. But after what Blankenship was able to do in 2022, he’s going to get every opportunity to start as a second-year player.

Of Blankenship’s 346 defensive snaps last year (including playoffs), 247 of them (72.4%) came as a free safety. He seems like the Eagles’ best fit at that spot regardless of whether Edmunds or Brown take the other job.

Blankenship, 24, was a five-year starter at Middle Tennessee State and accumulated an incredible 419 tackles during his college career. From the moment he arrived at training camp a year ago, Blankenship didn’t look like a rookie at a position that is generally pretty tough on younger players. That’s likely because of all that college experience. The stage wasn’t too big for him.

Based on what new DC Sean Desai said about what he wants from his defense, Blankenship should fit right in.

“He talks about being palpable,” Blankenship said. “Wants people watching on TV to feel us and we want to be violent. That’s our top goal right now. That’s how you play football. It’s a violent sport. You run and hit. That’s what I’ve been doing since I was little.”

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