How an Eagles rookie made Slay jealous on Sunday night


As Eagles rookie Reed Blankenship spoke to reporters in the locker room after Sunday’s 40-33 win, a chant broke out among his defensive back teammates.

“Reed! Reed! Reed!”

They were clearly happy to see the undrafted rookie safety play so well after being thrust into action on Sunday night. He finished with six tackles and an interception against Aaron Rodgers, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

One of those teammates involved in the chant just couldn’t help himself a little while later.

“I’m low-key jealous too. I ain’t gonna lie,” Darius Slay said. “Because he got [Rodgers] before I did and I’ve been in the league 10 years. F—ing rookie, you know what I’m saying? But kudos to him. I’m happy for my dawg.”

Earlier in the week, Slay talked about his desire to finally pick off a Rodgers pass to add to his Mt. Rushmore collection. And then in this game an undrafted rookie with two career defensive snaps coming in got one before him.

Oh well.

“I saw Aaron Rodgers looking that way and I broke on it,” Blankenship said. “I’m surprised he actually threw it, though. That’s what surprised me but I’m happy I got there in time and was able to do something for my team.”

Blankenship, 23, was forced into action in the first half after starter C.J. Gardner-Johnson exited the game with a ribs injury. Blankenship played 34 defensive snaps the rest of the way and acquitted himself quite well in relief of the NFL’s interceptions leader.

You might expect an undrafted rookie in his first extended time on defense to be somewhat tentative, but Blankenship wasn’t. Not even a little bit.

The five-year starter from Middle Tennessee played like he belonged on Sunday night.

“Just play football. I’ve been doing it for a long time,” said Blankenship, who had 419 tackles in his college career. “It’s just another game. I was so happy to be able to play football again. I was a kid out there. I love that. I just love football and I love playing.”

Last week in Indianapolis, Blankenship earned the first two defensive snaps of his career as the sixth defensive back in the Eagles’ dime package. He overtook former fourth-round pick K’Von Wallace for that role and he was the next guy up on Sunday after CJGJ was forced out of the game.

Not only did Blankenship jump a Rodgers pass for the interception, but he also showed off his physicality with some big hits and tackles. He wasn’t afraid to get his nose in there.

“I think he just trusts his preparation,” starting safety Marcus Epps said. “He comes into work every day. He’s attentive in meetings, he takes coaching and he knows what to do. So when you do all of those things, it makes it easier for you to play free and trust the work that you put in.”

Of course, it wasn’t a perfect outing for Blankenship either. He was flagged for an unnecessary roughness for a hit on Packers receiver Christian Watson. And later, Blankenship played a role in the 63-yard touchdown pass to Watson in the fourth quarter to pull the Packers to within one score.

Blankenship admitted he was out of position and didn’t take the right angle.

So there are some things to work out. But it’s hard not to be encouraged by how Blankenship played on Sunday night. This is the same player who had the second-lowest amount of guaranteed money in the Eagles initial UDFA class this spring.

But Blankenship worked this way onto the roster, onto the field and when he finally got a chance to play extended reps, he made the most of them.

It’s unclear how long Gardner-Johnson will be out and that’s certainly a loss. But the Eagles have to be willing to roll with Blankenship until CJGJ is back.

At least Blankenship gave the Eagles a reason to believe in him on Sunday night.

“Very confident,” Epps said. “I know Reed’s going to come to work and he’s going to do his job. Very confident.”

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