Eagles Outlook: PFF points to S Reed Blankenship as team’s biggest X-factor in 2023
The Philadelphia Eagles defense will look a lot different in 2023 compared to last season.
They lost several starters in free agency, which include both starting linebackers, both starting safeties, and arguably their best overall defensive lineman, Javon Hargrave. Howie Roseman did a great job supplementing these losses through free agency and the NFL Draft, but the safety position is still a big question mark entering the 2023 season.
Roseman added three guys to the Eagles safety room: Former Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds, former second-round pick Justin Evans, and rookie Sydney Brown in the third-round of this year’s draft. Evans will more than likely be a depth piece barring injury. As for Edmunds and Brown, both will likely see substantial playing time in Sean Desai’s defense from the jump.
The other safety who will have a chance to play a significant role in the Eagles defense is Reed Blankenship, but as of right now, his role in Desai’s defense is still very much up for interpretation.
On one hand, he’s the only returning safety who played over 100 snaps with the team last season. He was pretty solid when he got his opportunities as well, especially for an undrafted rookie. Blankenship racked up 34 combined tackles and looked better than expected in coverage, allowing a 73.8 passer rating when targeted while snagging one interception – off Aaron Rodgers, no less.
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On the other hand, Blankenship only made four starts and he won’t be afforded the same preferential treatment he may have gotten from former defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. The Eagles under Nick Sirianni have instituted the “everyone has to earn a starting spot” mentality since day one. Obviously, guys like Darius Slay or James Bradberry have already earned that, but the Reed Blankenship’s of the world have not – especially with a new DC in place.
Nevertheless, Pro Football Focus still believes Blankenship is the biggest x-factor for the Eagles entering this season. Their reasoning:
“Following up on the aforementioned holes over the middle, Blankenship enters 2023 with a great opportunity to start after a surprising rookie year in which he finished with a 79.4 overall grade. He earned an 89.4 run-defense grade, fourth best among qualified safeties, and made some plays in coverage — including an interception of Aaron Rodgers. The Eagles will still have an elite pass rush and excellent outside cornerback play. They need Blankenship to be the glue in the middle.”
Despite the small sample size, Blankenship looked like he belonged on the field last year, obviously. If he manages to take a leap in development this offseason, there’s no reason to think he won’t be a starter come Week 1. The training camp battle at safety will be one of the most intriguing storylines to follow this year.
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Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports