Eagles Positional Needs: Safety
I am excited to start the deep dive into the offseason. In this series of articles, I will be taking a look at my top five positions of need for the Eagles starting at number five and working my way to one. In each breakdown, I will detail who is currently on the roster, why it is a need and potential targets in Free Agency and the draft.
One quick note, the Eagles coaching staff values versatility in their safeties, but they still have a defined role for their safeties. Free Safety (FS) has to have the range to cover deep in man-free coverage and patrol the middle of the field in the different variations of cover three. While the Strong Safety (SS) is playing close to the line of scrimmage and asked to cover the short zones, covering RBs and TEs in man coverage. I will be looking at a few different guys with defined roles and a few with the versatility to fit in, in either role.
Let’s not waste any more time, let’s dive right into it.
Number 5: Safety
Players currently on roster and practice squad: SS- Malcolm Jenkins & Diondre Hall
FS- Rodney McCleod & Tre Sullivan.
Why it’s a need:
At SS, Malcolm Jenkins is coming off a good season where he played pretty much every snap on defense, however, he is 31 years of age. Diondre Hall has only taken reps when all depth was depleted and he’s primarily been a special teams player. While at FS, McCleod, had a solid start to 2018 until injuring his knee. The veteran safety has had his contract restructured and is only under contract for 2019. Tre Sullivan did his best to fill in, but seemed to be up and down with his play. With all of this in mind, we could go into 2020 with Malcolm Jenkins and Tre Sullivan as our starting Safeties, which is why I feel it’s a need to grab either a FS or SS in the offseason.
Now, let’s jump into offseason targets at the safety position that I believe should interest the Eagles.
FS Free Agent targets:
He’s been a quality starting FS for the Panthers, Chargers and most recently the Cardinals.
Solid production last year; 79 tackles 3 interceptions and 9 passes defended.
Boston has range on the back end and brings aggressiveness in the run game.
At only 27 years of age, Boston Sits in the prime of his career. The veteran safety has the ability to play in the three safety packages and could eventually take over as the starter if the Eagles move on from McCleod.
Price tag- Boston will hit the open market and will probably demand something like the contract recently signed by Eric Reid (7 million per year). Paying another FS that amount of money does not seem likely.
Versatility- Experience at slot corner? Check. Experience at both FS & SS? Check. Ward has moved around the secondary and has played solidly to good in every spot. As I stated previously, this versatility will be sure to attract Schwartz and the rest of the coaching staff
Price tag- Unlike Tre Boston, I do not expect Ward to command a large contract. It should be reason enough to encourage Howie to take a shot on him.
Injuries- Ward has had quite a few injuries in the past few years. He suffered a broken collar bone in 2016, fractured his forearm in 2017 and is coming off a 2018 season where he suffered a strained hamstring.
Avonte Maddox current status on the Eagles- Because of how proficiently Maddox played last season, the Eagles may see him as this piece already and may choose to move him to FS for good.
FS draft targets:
Nasir Adderley, University of Deleware
Versatility- Adderley has experience playing some corner and played a good amount of two high safety and at times playing down in the box at Delaware.
Adequate ability in man coverage on film.
physical tackler and good against the run.
Man coverage- A lot was made of his reps in Senior Bowl and it did show that he does need work in this area. This seems to be his only blemish because most of his time at Delaware was spent in deep coverage.
Juan Thornhill, University of Virginia
Solid range over the top coverage
Good size for the position (6’1 195)
Versatility- played high safety, in the box and in the slot
Seems to be pretty good at route recognition
Tackling- goes too low and throws himself at ankles a little bit too much for my liking.
Athleticism- Does not look to be the best athlete on the back end but still good enough to be effective at FS
SS free agent targets:
Versatility- Has spent the last 5 seasons with the Chargers as a Free Safety but has spent most of his time at Strong Safety and Nickel/Dime LB.
Tackling- Because of his time at SS and LB he’s been really good against the run.
Price tag- I feel as he could be an “affordable” option at the SS position because of the amount of safeties in the FA market, draft class and his very specific role.
Plays a position that only Malcolm Jenkins has played for the Eagles. Eagles could want to draft a young “heir” and not sign one.
SS draft targets:
Taylor Rapp, University of Washington
Tackling- very physical and sound tackler. Takes good angles in run game.
Quick processor especially in short zones or when coming down towards the line of scrimmage
Able to play vs TEs and RBs in man coverage.
A little too linear of an athlete, not enough lateral agility.
Okay if asked to play two high coverage but probably should not play single high FS.
Versatile Safety Target
Chauncey Gardner Johnson, University of Florida
Versatility- This is where CGJ hangs his hat. Can play FS, SS and slot CB at a pretty good
Athleticism- seems to be a good athlete on film can run and change direction fluidly
Man Coverage- played in the slot a lot this past season and looks fluid and comfortable in off-man coverage
Range- can cover over the top in deep zones.
My biggest concern is his tackling. I will acknowledge that his 2018 film showed a much better tackler in terms of form, angles and overall aggressiveness. However, in 2017, I saw a bit of diving at ankles and simply falling down and failing to wrap and finish. If he has moved past those issues he’s an exciting target for the Eagles.
These are just some of the guys I think the Eagles should targets. Others who I still have work to do on are Darnell Savage from Maryland and Malik Gant from Marshall. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles chose to address this position.
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