Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster, and how they fit with the team heading into training camp. Today we’ll continue on with the safeties.
Previous training camp previews
The depth chart:
|Anthony Harris||Jaquiski Tartt||Andre Chachere||Reed Blankenship|
|Marcus Epps||K’Von Wallace||Jared Mayden|
Harris was an undrafted free agent of the Vikings out of Virginia who worked his way into Minnesota’s starting lineup. Prior to his time in Philly, he had played in 81 games, starting 47. In 2019, Harris picked off six passes, which was good for a share of the league lead. He added a seventh pick in the postseason, victimizing Drew Brees.
The Vikings franchise tagged Harris during the 2020 offseason, and he made $11,441,000 that season. In 2020, Harris had something of a down season, he became a free agent in 2021, and a strong market for his services did not develop. As a result, the Eagles were able to land him at the reasonable cost of $4 million on a one-year deal.
Jonathan Gannon was the Vikings’ assistant defensive backs coach from 2014 to 2017. He overlapped with Harris from 2015 to 2017, so the Harris signing made sense last offseason as something of a “training wheels” player in Gannon’s defense.
Harris signed back with the team in 2022 on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, less than what he made in 2021.
We took a deep dive look at Epps’ 2020 season last year, because ProFootballFocus had him as the 13th best safety in the NFL, sandwiched in between a pair of All-Pro players in Harrison Smith and Budda Baker. That ranking was kind of silly.
Epps’ best trait was his ball skills. He appeared in 14 games in 2020, starting five, but he only played 363 snaps, or 33 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. In that limited action, Epps had 47 tackles, two INTs, and four pass breakups. Those are pretty good numbers, and when I found his pass breakups, they were legitimately nice plays.
On the downside, tackling was a major concern area, and I concluded that if he was going to survive long-term in the NFL, he was going to have to figure out a way to become a more physical, reliable tackler.
In 2021, Epps did indeed improve as a tackler. He finished with 62 tackles, and pro-football-reference.com had him down for just four missed tackles. He also picked off one pass and had five pass breakups. He is in line to start for the Eagles in 2022.
The Eagles signed Tartt in mid-June, after several other attempts to add to the safety position this offseason.
Tartt has good size (6’1, 215) and is thought of as a big hitter. He was a second-round pick of the 49ers in 2015 out of Samford who has played in 80 regular season games for San Francisco, with 64 starts. He is now 30 years old.
In 2021, Tartt had 66 tackles (5 for loss), with just one pass breakup and no interceptions. Over his seven-year NFL career, Tartt has just 18 pass breakups, 4 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles, so he’s not exactly a big playmaker.
He also has durability concerns, as he missed three games in 2021, nine games in 2020, four games in 2019, eight games in 2018, and seven games in 2017.
Safety was an obvious weakness on the Eagles’ roster, and in Tartt they added an experienced player, though one who has not made a big impact. Tartt will compete for a role in the Eagles’ defense during training camp, perhaps as something of a safety/linebacker hybrid or as a third safety, however, he is probably not a threat to take Harris’ or Epps’ jobs in the starting lineup.
Wallace was arguably the Eagles’ most popular value pick in the 2020 draft, as the Eagles were able to get a player who many thought was a Day 2 prospect in the fourth round. However, Wallace’s first two seasons in the NFL have been disappointing, and his snap count in 2021 was actually down from his rookie season 2020, both in the regular defense and on special teams:
|K’Von Wallace||Defensive snaps||Special teams snaps|
|2020||202 (18.3%)||219 (49.7%)|
|2021||184 (16.3%)||193 (43.1%)|
The Eagles were obviously not content with Wallace as their third safety, given their signing of Tartt in June. He is probably a bubble player this year in camp.
Chachere’s contributions with the Eagles in 2021 were mostly on special teams, with his most notable role being as a gunner on the punt coverage team. He also started at safety in the Eagles’ meaningless Week 18 game against Dallas.
Chachere is a versatile player who has bounced around the league a bit since entering the NFL in 2018. His spot on the 53-man roster is not guaranteed, but he does seem to have a bigger role on special teams than Wallace above.
Mayden was an undrafted free agent of the 49ers’ in 2020. The Eagles signed him to the practice squad in October, and he actually appeared in four games for them, making six tackles.
Blankenship is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Middle Tennessee State. He is a player that we profiled in each of the last two seasons in our prospects series, so he’s a guy from a small school who has been on our radar for a while. He played five seasons at MTSU. His first three were highlighted by his takeaway numbers (8 INTs), while his last two were noteworthy for his high number of tackles (186 of them in 22 games).
In 2021, Blankenship compiled 110 tackles (10 for loss), a sack, an INT, 8 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 recoveries, one of which he returned for a score.
He’s an active safety who can cover a lot of ground. A look:
The Eagles have some obvious needs at safety, and Blankenship felt to me like a late-round type of player who can contribute immediately on special teams and grow into a role in the regular defense. Sleeper.
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