The safety position for the Eagles will be the most interesting group to keep an eye on once camp rolls around. After losing veteran leader Malcolm Jenkins this offseason, Howie Roseman went out and acquired a handful of players to try and mitigate that loss, along with resigning some of his own guys.
First, the team resigned Jalen Mills and moved him to Jenkins’ vacant safety spot. Then during free agency, Howie acquired Philly native Will Parks, a versatile safety who turned down more lucrative offers to come play for his hometown team. Roseman then selected Clemson safety K’Von Wallace in the fourth round of this year’s draft, a complete steal for what he brings to the table.
There’s no doubt losing a veteran presence like Jenkins will hurt a bit, especially his leadership on and off the field. But, his play did decline last season and upping his salary was not in the best interest of the organization.
Jenkins is a unique safety and Jim Schwartz has used him in a multitude of ways over the years. Each of the safeties that will get a shot at filling Jenkins’ role this season (Mills, Parks and Wallace) all have the ability to play all over the field like Jenkins did. And I believe they bring more upside to the position as well.
Fans love to rag on Mills, but his skill set lends itself to playing in this hybrid role. He’s a much more natural fit as a safety than he is as a corner. He played some safety at LSU and in his best game of last season, week 11 against the New England Patriots, Mills played all over the field, logging snaps at five different positions on defense. He finished that game with a Pro Football Focus grade of 77.3, his highest mark of the year and the third-highest of his career.
Will Parks is also an interesting prospect. The 25-year-old safety started in 15 of his 62 games as a Denver Bronco, tallying 149 tackles, four interceptions, 13 pass deflections and four tackles for loss. He’s another versatile guy who can do whatever Schwartz will ask of him. He’s spent time at safety and corner throughout his career, and he totaled 211 snaps as the nickel corner last season.
Then we have Wallace, someone who I’ve been high on since the Birds snagged him in the draft. He was a standout on Clemson’s National Championship team and was voted as the defensive captain for 2019.
He was a consistent coverage guy all throughout his collegiate career, earning a PFF coverage grade of 92.1 since 2017, the highest grade of any safety selected in this year’s draft.
Wallace has also been a very consistent tackler, missing only 13 tackles on 159 attempts over the past three years.
Again, he’s another versatile guy who played multiple positions at Clemson. But I’d have to imagine that Schwartz will keep him primarily at safety because he’s a rookie.
This will be the funnest camp battle to watch this season, there’s no denying that. The thing I love most about this competition is the amount of confidence each of these players bring to the field. All three have voiced their confidence this offseason and they all believe they’re the man for the job.
Mills appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic over the weekend and assured fans that he bleieves he’s in for a breakout campaign.
“I feel like at my position, my competitiveness and the position that I (know) this Eagles defense is going to be able to put me in to make the plays that I know I can make, that I’m going to have a breakout season,” Mills said. “I’m ready for it, so as far as when we’re talking about any type of other players and bringing in other guys, especially at the safety position, I definitely feel like I can hold my own.”
Here’s the full clip if you want to check it out:
Will Parks hasn’t shied away from puffing his chest out either. When he talked to 94.1 WIP’s Eliot Shorr-Parks, he stated, “I am not here for gimmicks. I am not here to kid. I am here to help my team win and also create a legacy. That is my mindset.”
And we’ve all seen Wallace’s Twitter presence as well, continually firing up Eagles fans.
I’m really excited to see how this camp battle plays out. Each of these guys has a shot to take the starting role and they all have their eyes set on seizing it.