After years of the safety position being a meme and painful subject for a lot of Eagles fans, the team has enjoyed strong play at the back end of the defense for the last few seasons.
Malcolm Jenkins joining the team in 2014 ended up being one of the best moves in the franchise’s recent history. Not only has Jenkins brought a unique leadership to the team, his versatility and strong play make him extremely valuable to the defense. In Jim Schwartz’s scheme, Jenkins lines up everywhere; from free safety to strong safety to slot cornerback and nickel linebacker. There’s few things he can’t do. Across from Jenkins, Rodney McLeod was inconsistent but not a total liability during his first two years in Philly. 2018 saw McLeod lose most of his season to an injury and then restructure his contract to guarantee he’s with the team next year.
Despite the two of them being locked in for 2019, the future of the safety position is in doubt. Jenkins is on the wrong side of 30 and, though he was one of the better strong safeties in the NFL last year, the team has to be ready to account for his decline. McLeod is coming off a major injury and, as previously mentioned, his play in Philly hasn’t exactly been irreplaceable. While the need at the position isn’t immediately dire, the Eagles might want to glance at a few safeties in this year’s draft.
- Deionte Thompson, Alabama: At this point, Thompson is the only consensus first round prospect at the safety position. The 6’2” defender is a rangey player with ball skills and a knack for big plays. Teams will love his size and athleticism.
- Jonathan Abrams, Mississippi State: Jonathan Abrams is a muscled up strong safety who is physical and versatile. Abrams lined up over slot receivers and tight ends for the Bulldogs and admirably played the run game. He is a moveable piece on a defense and can set the tone with his big hitting.
- Nasir Adderley, Delaware: Already a big riser this offseason, Nasir Adderley’s ball production at Delaware warrants attention. With nine interceptions in two seasons, Adderley is true playmaker at the backend of a defense. While he lacks the desired physicality at the position, teams will love his range and ball skills.
- Taylor Rapp, Washington: A former freshman phenom, Rapp has developed into a very tantalizing talent at the safety position. Washington used Rapp as a defensive weapon who could cover the slot, play as a big nickel and even produce as a blitzer. Rapp is a day one starter at the strong safety position given his great instincts and football IQ.
- Juan Thornhill, UVA: With six interceptions in 2018, Juan Thornhill is an exciting playmaker at the safety position. Thornhill is not a great athlete, but plays with great football IQ. Thornhill’s good size and field vision make him an intriguing free safety prospect.