Head coach Chip Kelly wants to see his players separate themselves from the pack by making big plays during the preseason. Yes, opening eyes during practice is nice, but Kelly and his staff want to see big things when the hitting is live and players aren't competing against teammates.
For second-year safety Ed Reynolds II, he made sure his presence was felt by coming up with two interceptions in the Philadelphia Eagles' 36-10 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts.
"He showed up today," Kelly said after the game. "Not only did he have the two interceptions, he had a big tackle on the kickoff return after that late in the game. He’s a guy that’s pushing to make the 53-man roster and I’m happy for him.
"We put a big emphasis on how you play in the game. It’s not just our training sessions, it’s how you play when it’s live and full-go and let’s go, and I thought Ed did a nice job. He put himself in a pretty good position out of game one."
Reynolds did not record a tackle, but did pull down two interceptions in late-game action Sunday. The first came on an overthrow by Colts quarterback Bryan Bennett, and the second was a result of Reynolds jumping his receiver's route. And while his performance was against fringe players and back-end roster guys, it's the kind of performance last year's fifth round pick needed to show he belongs on the team.
"It was amazing," he said. "It made me feel like I was in college again. That was my thing in college - to go out there and be a ballhawk and give our offense more opportunities. It felt good, but it wasn't like I was going out there and doing anything crazy. I was just playing our scheme and having good eyes on the quarterback and breaking and believing what I saw."
Because he declared for the 2014 NFL Draft but did not graduate from Stanford before declaring, NCAA rules forced Reynolds to miss significant time last spring. The silver lining was that Reynolds spent the 2014 season as a member of the practice squad. There he was able to learn the defense and get practice reps at several positions, including wide receiver.
"I missed that my first year so I was playing catch-up, really the entire year," Reynolds said. "And then being healthy this whole time. Last year, being on the practice squad, I played nickel, I played corner, played safety, wideout; did every special teams rep I needed.
"I felt like I was in the best shape of my life, just learning from all different aspects of the game; learning this defense. So now I’m coming in and capitalizing on my opportunities. That’s really what you have to do. Once the lights come on, you have to show that you can play. So this was just the first day. I just have to stack ‘em up."
The Eagles are looking to fill several holes in the secondary, and while Reynolds isn't necessarily being groomed for a starting spot, his encouraging play Sunday will go a long way towards his ability to stay on the team and find ways to contribute - be it on defense or special teams - come game day.