They don’t have double-headers in football. Don’t tell Reed Blankenship.
He just about played one Sunday.
Blankenship played nearly the equivalent of two entire NFL games Sunday, compiling the highest snap count by an NFL player in 11 years in the Eagles’ overtime win over the Bills at the Linc.
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The average NFL team plays about 63 snaps per game on each side of the ball. Blankenship played 116.
Which is insane.
“It’s a lot of snaps, but if my name is called upon, whatever it is, however many snaps, I'm up for it,” Blankenship said Wednesday. “I know they trust me as a player and as a person. It doesn't matter what I'm asked to do. I love the game so much, I’m up for anything.”
According to the Stathead database, Blankenship’s 116 total snaps are the most by any NFL player on either side of the football in 11 years.
In 2012, Titans linebacker Jordan Babineaux, played 118 snaps – 96 on defense, 22 on special teams – in the Titans’ 44-41 overtime win over the Lions at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Babineaux is the guy who made that miracle tackle on Tony Romo short of the goal-line in that Seahawks-Cowboys playoff game in 2006.
The most previous snaps by an Eagle on record – Stathead has been tracking snaps since 2012 – was Malcolm Jenkins’ 111 in the 2018 overtime loss in Dallas. Jenkins played 99 defensive snaps and 12 on special teams.
Blankenship has always played a ton. He’s missed 2 ½ games with injuries this year, but in the games he’s been healthy, he’s played 640 of 642 snaps on defense and averaged 10 special teams snaps per game.
He was forced to play more special teams snaps than usual Sunday with Josiah Scott inactive. His previous high this year on special teams was 13 against the Giants. He played 16 against the Colts last year, but that was before he became a starter.
This was truly uncharted waters.
Blankenship’s previous high for defensive snaps was 79, six days earlier in Kansas City and he also played 11 special teams snaps against the Chiefs. Those 90 total snaps were his previous career high.
That means he played 205 snaps in the span of 5 ½ days. No other NFL player on record has played 205 snaps in a two-game span.
“If I have to do somebody else's job because they went down, so be it,” Blankenship said. “It's part of being a team.
“It's just one of those games that you just go with the flow. And, yeah, you start to realize, ‘I feel like I've been out here a lot more than usual.’ But at the end of the day, it's cool. It's going to be like that sometimes. You’ve just got to suck it up and move on and play the game.”
It was certainly a unique game and for Blankenship to play well over 100 snaps on a short week after playing over 90 against the Chiefs tells you all you need to know about this 24-year-old undrafted safety out of Middle Tennessee State.
“I can't speak enough great things about Reed Blankenship,” special teams coach Michael Clay said. “Going into the game, we weren't anticipating him playing all those special teams plays, but talking to him on Saturday night, saying, ‘Hey, you may have to play these,’ he didn't bat an eye. Ready to go.
“That just shows the determination that Reed Blankenship has. It shows the level of endurance he has to play at such a high level, not just on defense but also on punt and on kickoff. He's our captain of our punt team.
“It's just something that you're in awe of as a coach. And the amount of respect you have for a guy that's going to play 120 plays in the NFL, for him to go out there and play at such a high level, you just have nothing but respect for him.
“It also sets a precedent for the younger guys – like, that's the type of sacrifice and want-to you’ve got to have to have to play in this league.”
Needless to say, Blankenship could feel every one of those 115 snaps in his legs after the game and really for a couple days.
“Very sore,” he said. “I can tell I haven't played that amount of snaps since probably high school. I played close to that in college, but it feels a little bit different. But I know they're going to take care of me. We’ve got the perfect setup for recovery so I think I’ll be fine.”
The four-highest defensive snap counts in the NFL this year belong to Blankenship, James Bradberry, Kevin Byard and Darius Slay, who all played all 95 snaps Sunday in the Eagles’ overtime win.
Slay, Bradberry, Nicholas Morrow (87), Josh Sweat (81), Jalen Carter (76) and Jordan Davis (62) all hit career highs in snaps Sunday. Carter played 85 snaps, including special teams, and Davis played 74. Even Christian Ellis, an undrafted backup linebacker, played 53.
"That short week, it took a toll on a lot of guys,” Blankenship said. “But you just keep playing.”
And then do a lot of extra work early in the week to recover.
The Eagles hold walkthroughs instead of full practices on most Wednesdays later in the year, and after two physical games and a short week and a ton of snaps, much of this week’s regimen is geared to making sure everybody is fresh and ready on Sunday for a very talented, very physical 49ers team.
“You want to double down on pretty much everything you do,” Blankenship said. “I don't do anything exotic, I do the normal stuff, but you just do a lot more of it.”
Blankenship said he actually feels worse two days after a game than the next day. By Wednesday, going back out to practice and running around, he can feel his legs start to come back.
But the mental challenge of playing 116 plays is just as big as the physical challenge.
“Absolutely, you've got to be mentally sharp at the end of the game no matter how tired you are,” he said. “I don't know how you explain it, but for me, personally, you’ve got to fight every snap. You just keep fighting. I've been playing this game for a long time, but you kind of have to find that dark place and get in that mode and stay there. That’s how I get through it.”