Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2016 is almost here. Coaches and players report as soon as Monday, July 25. The Eagles' training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here. As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. We continue today by taking a look at the safeties.
Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Jaylen Watkins, Ed Reynolds, Blake Countess
For a long time after Brian Dawkins left Philadelphia, safety was a big position of weakness for the Eagles. That's no longer the case. In fact, it's just the opposite. Safety is a position of strength. It's arguably the best starting unit on the entire team.
The Eagles haven't been afraid to outwardly state their confidence in the team's starting safeties. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said he expects Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod to be one of the NFL's best safety duos this season. He's not delusional for thinking this way.
Jenkins, 28, is coming off his first career Pro Bowl season. His versatility makes him a very valuable player on defense. He's great in coverage and he can also play the run. As an added bonus, Jenkins is a leader in the locker room and on the field. The only thing holding Jenkins back is his catching ability. He needs to find a way to hold on to those interceptions that he's been dropping.
The 26-year-old McLeod is, as BGN writer Ben Natan put it, "really good." McLeod just seems like a player Eagles fans are going to love. He's not afraid to sacrifice his body to lay out devastating, bone-crushing hits. He's not just known for his physicality, though. He excels in coverage as well.
The good news is that the Eagles have two great starting safeties. The bad news is that they have almost nothing behind them. Chris Maragos is a good special teams player, but that's about it. He was the third safety last season and he got benched after struggling. Reynolds has been cut twice by the Eagles since being drafted in 2014. He's shown some nice coverage ability but needs to improve as a tackler. Watkins is making the switch the safety after mostly playing at cornerback for most of his NFL career so far. Watkins also has issues with tackling. Last, but not necessarily least, is Countess. The rookie defensive back looks smaller than the 5-10, 184 pounds he's listed at. If he can play bigger than his size, he could be the dark horse in this competition to be the third safety.
How will it play out?
Jenkins and McLeod will obviously start. The third safety spot is up for grabs. It's hard to imagine Maragos will win that job again after he held it last year and lost it during the season. It could come down to Watkins, Reynolds, or Countess. Or maybe the Eagles even look to add a veteran off the waiver wire following final cuts.
Who could be a surprise cut?
Maragos getting cut would be surprising since he's a good special teams player. Releasing him would save $1.5 million, though. Countess could be a surprise cut in the sense he was drafted earlier this offseason, albeit in the sixth round.