K’Von Wallace went from being hurt most of training camp to running with the third team to hoping for reps as a backup to playing virtually all of the season opener.
No excuses. No hesitation. He was ready.
Wallace, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick last year from Clemson, replaced injured Marcus Epps just eight snaps into the Falcons game Sunday and acquitted himself well in the Eagles’ 32-6 win.
“He did a good job,” safety Anthony Harris said. “He came in, the communication was there, we communicated stuff on the sideline and tried to communicate on the field as well and really just tried to have each other’s back out there.
“The expectation is everybody’s coming in and ready to go. He’s been here the entire time, he’s gotten reps, he’s done well in communicating and being where he needs to be. Now it's just about preparing, getting down the game plan, knowing what we want to do defensively, trying to figure out what they want to do offensively, and then just going to play ball. Trusting in the preparation that the coaches have done, trusting your ability and trusting the guys around you.”
Wallace played a career-high 64 snaps — he played every defensive snap after Epps suffered a concussion while tackling Calvin Ridley just 2:52 into the game.
With Epps out, Rodney McLeod still inactive and Andrew Adams now with the Buccaneers, Anthony Harris and Wallace were the Eagles’ only safeties in uniform.
It was a tall order for Wallace, who did not play a ton of meaningful snaps as a rookie. But the Falcons, who netted 59 yards on the first eight plays of the game, managed just 201 with Wallace on the field.
“He handled it well,” Harris said. “All week, all training camp, the guys have been handling it in a professional manner, in terms of just being locked in, whether they’re in the game, in practice getting reps or just getting those mental reps trying to prepare themselves to go in.
“For him to pop in like that on short notice like that, he was dialed in and ready to go. Mentally he was ready to go and he just came in and did a good job.
“That’s one thing that we talk about. Everybody being prepared, everybody being ready, being mentally physically and emotionally locked in what we need to be for when your opportunity’s there.”
Wallace played only 53 snaps the first 11 games last year. He played a little more once McLeod tore his ACL, but his most playing time until the meaningless season finale was 28 snaps in the win over the Saints.
So 64 snaps in a new scheme with a new coach on opening day on the road against a team with a star tight end and a Hall of Fame quarterback was quite a challenge.
But the Eagles had no other options.
“That just goes to show you guys always got to have that next-man-up mentality,” cornerback Steve Nelson said. “No matter where you’re at on the depth chart, you have to know the information and be able to come in and be accountable, and that’s what he showed. He came in and played his tail off.”
McLeod, now more than eight months out from his torn ACL, has been limited in practice, and Epps is working his way back from the concussion, but he was also limited at practice on Thursday.
It remains to be seen who’ll start opposite Harris at safety Sunday when the Eagles open their home schedule against the 49ers, but if it is Wallace, the Eagles have to feel pretty good with where he’s at.
“I think anytime you go into a game you just go in there with the mindset that what we have is enough,” Harris said.
“But it’s going to take everybody being ready for the opportunity. We have guys who have a lot of talent but at the end of the day it’s about being locked into what the game plan is, being locked in with each snap with what we want to get done and then just going out and playing fast and cutting it loose.”