Roob's Observations

Roob's 10 Eagles Observations: What's going to happen with second safety spot?

Ahead of the Eagles' second preseason game, here's our latest random observations.

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A look at that second safety position, a curious move with Derek Barnett and a historic Eagles game played in a stadium in West Oak Lane.

With preseason Game 2 on tap Thursday night against the Browns and the regular-season opener now just 24 days away, here’s this week’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Preseason Observations.

1. In my mind, the competition for the second safety spot is down to Sydney Brown and K’Von Wallace. I just haven’t seen a lot from Terrell Edmunds, although with 75 career starts he’s by far the most experienced of the bunch. Wallace has come a long way. He’s always been physical with a knack for being around the ball, but so far in camp and in the first preseason game he’s been a much more consistent player. Brown, if you saw the Ravens preseason game, that’s what you’re going to get. A guy racing around 100 miles per hour hitting everything in his way. He still needs to find the perfect balance between that intensity and playing smart and under control, but he’s figuring it out every day and it’s fun to watch. Justin Evans made a couple nice plays in the preseason opener, but that might have been the first time he’s flashed all summer. Edmunds hasn’t been awful, but he’s been a bit of a disappointment. I guess he’s the safe choice. But if Brown can continue making the strides he’s made over the last month, he’s going to be the guy.

2. That second linebacker spot next to Nakobe Dean is also still wide open, with Christian Ellis, Nicholas Morrow and newcomers Zach Cunningham and Myles Jack all in the mix. The more I see them, the more I feel like either Cunningham or Jack will be the opening-day starter. Especially considering how inexperienced Dean is – he’s played just 34 snaps in his career. Morrow just hasn’t made many plays, and Cunningham and Jack – who’ve both started over 75 games in their careers – both seem to be picking things up quickly. I still like Ellis, although he’s come back down to Earth a bit. But if you start Dean and Ellis, you’re starting two guys with 63 combined career defensive snaps. I think the second guy has to have some experience, and Cunningham and Jack make the most sense.

3. The only Eagle with back-to-back games with 20 rushing attempts over the last seven years is Josh Adams. Late in the 2018 season, the undrafted rookie from Warrington had 20 carries for 85 yards against Washington and 22 carries for 84 yards a week later against the Giants. 

4. I know I keep saying how great Reed Blankenship has been, but I don’t care, I’m going to keep repeating it because the kid has been unreal. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody with five interceptions at a single training camp. Everything we saw from him in those four starts last year he’s doing but he's been even more productive, even more instinctive, even more confident. Here’s what (Darius) Slay said after practice Tuesday about Blankenship: “One of the top guys in our secondary. Been doing a great job, man. Communicating, leading the way. Right now, you know, he’s got the most picks during camp. I'm kind of jealous because I'm trying to win, but I don't really get too much action like that. But, hey, I'm jealous. I'm jealous because I want to win. I'm happy for him, though.”

5. Some of Derek Barnett’s best reps this summer have come from the inside, which might not mean anything but maybe it does. Barnett has been almost exclusively an outside rusher in his first six NFL seasons – he’s played 2,596 snaps with three inside, according to Pro Football Reference (two in 2019, one in 2021). But we know Sean Desai likes moving everybody around and trying guys in new positions and unusual combinations. Heck, we saw James Bradberry in the slot earlier this week, Wallace at linebacker for a couple snaps and Zech McPhearson moving from slot – where he had worked exclusively all summer – back to outside corner. So why not Barnett? It’s looking more and more like the Eagles’ 2017 1st-round pick is going to make the team, and if Desai can unlock the 27-year-old chronic underachiever, that’s one more weapon on an already loaded defensive line.

6. Jalen Hurts is one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to throw an interception less than once every 50 attempts and complete 62 percent of his passes (minimum 1,000 attempts). The others are Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes.

7. I’ve never seen better depth at wide receiver than this team has in camp. Guys like Tyrie Cleveland, Joseph Ngata, Greg Ward, Jadon Haselwood, Deon Cain and Johnny King have all made plays that fringe wide receivers generally don’t make. Tanner McKee made some big throws Saturday in Baltimore, but with a lesser group of receivers a lot of those are incomplete passes. All those guys – but Cleveland, Ngata and Ward in particular – have helped raise the overall level of offensive play when Hurts isn’t on the practice field, and that’s important. “Shoot, sometimes you go to a second or third group of receivers and you don't feel like you can make a play,” Nick Sirianni said on Tuesday. “I've definitely been on pre-season teams where you feel that way. Don't feel that way here. … That’s a good room. Guys are about each other and are looking to help each other out.” A lot of credit goes to A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, who are always quick to help out younger guys, and receivers coach Aaron Moorehead has done a nice job as well. And it was Howie Roseman who found all these guys. Maybe none of the second group will ever play meaningful snaps for the Eagles, but if they have to, there’s definitely an unusual level of talent in that room.

8. Did you know the largest margin of victory in an NFL regular-season game occurred in Philadelphia at a stadium where only two NFL games were played? On Nov. 6, 1934 – a Tuesday - the Eagles beat the Cincinnati Reds 64-0. Temple alum Swede Hanson rushed for 190 yards – still 5th-most in Eagles history – Ed Matesic and Reds Weiner each threw two TD passes (one of only four times in franchise history two Eagles had two TD passes in a game) and the Eagles held the Reds to zero passing yards. That game was played at Temple Stadium at the corner of Cheltenham Avenue and East Mount Pleasant Road in West Oak Lane, across the street from what is now Ross Dress for Less. The only more lopsided game in NFL history was the Bears' 73-0 win over Washington in the 1940 NFL Championship Game at Griffith Stadium. The Eagles-Reds game, originally scheduled to be played at the Baker Bowl, was postponed two days because of rain, and the Baker Bowl wasn’t available because the West Philadelphia-Central high school game was already booked there. That was the last game the Reds ever played. They disbanded after the loss. The only other game the Eagles ever played at Temple Stadium was the 1935 opener, a 17-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates that was an 8:45 p.m. kickoff. Presumably, the game was played there because Temple Stadium had lights and the Baker Bowl didn’t. Temple played at Temple Stadium through 1977, although they continued to play the annual Cherry and White Game there through 2002. In 1970, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead and Steve Miller performed at Temple Stadium. The facility was demolished in 1997 and is now home of the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.

9. The last NFC team to lose a Super Bowl and return to the Super Bowl the next year was the 1974 Vikings coached by Bud Grant, the Eagles’ 1950 1st-round draft pick. Grant had 616 receiving yards in the last six games of the 1952 season - which were his last six NFL games. That was the most yards in Eagles history by a player the last six weeks of any season until Brown had 665 this past season.  

10. Was great to catch up with Rodney McLeod this week. McLeod said he was mulling retirement after last season but decided to play a 12th season when Jim Schwartz called and asked him to come to Cleveland. McLeod and Schwartz were together in Philly for five years, from 2016 through 2020, and won a Super Bowl together in 2017, and McLeod said he really liked the prospect of playing another year with Schwartz. McLeod made a couple huge plays in the Super Bowl – two open-field, touchdown-saving tackles on Gronk. He spent last year with the Colts before signing with the Browns. A really valuable and under-rated Eagle. Just a good, solid, smart, physical safety. 

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