It's been six years since Weapon X left Philadelphia. The team hasn't had a true safety since.
But Malcolm Jenkins hopes to change that in the minds of Eagles fans, coming off an impressive first year in 2014 as the Birds' free safety. He's a playmaker -- exactly what the Eagles need to replace Brian Dawkins in their hearts and minds.
In his second year, Jenkins has found himself as a leader and mentor for teammates like Jaylen Watkins and Walter Thurmond going through the cornerback-safety transition, just like the change he endured in the beginning of his career.
“I needed to get on the field,” Jenkins said about his defensive change. “There was an opening, I embraced it to get on the field. “
One of the biggest storylines on an anticipated Eagles team is that of who will fill the hole of the strong safety position opposite of Jenkins.
Chip Kelly and Bill Davis have given the perception of switching a cornerback to the position, unleashing a multi-dimensional player on the defensive side of the ball.
“It’s easier to go from corner to safety,” Jenkins said, “Skills translate over, the biggest thing from a safety standpoint is your eyes, knowing the defense and getting guys lined up.”
Kelly welcomes a competition at the free safety spot. Earl Wolff is entering his third year, Wolff’s health development will be important to watch. Chris Maragos practiced with the No. 1 last week, however he was brought in last year to be an impactful special-teamer.
The Eagles took cornerback Eric Rowe out of Utah in the second round of the draft, where Rowe spent three years playing safety. However, Kelly stated Rowe would remain at corner.
The attention now has turned to Watkins and Thurmond.
Watkins is entering his second year in the league,b after he was drafted for his positional versatility. However, last year Watkins didn’t practice at safety until injuries to Nate Allen and Earl Wolff forced a change, which sent Watkins back to corner when they returned.
When Jenkins was asked on what he’s seen in Watkins thus far he told reporters at OTAs Tuesday, “It’s going good, he’s seeing the whole field and reading the quarterback. He’s going through that but he’s still cross-training at both positions.”
Thurmond was brought over from New York to be a corner, but a draft that saw three corners taken moved him to safety. Thurmond has the skillset, but has not played a game at the position.
Whomever the starter, a key responsibility would be to play coverage in the slot. Which is why the trend the team is following is converting cornerbacks to the position. Jenkins is the model of why it can work.
“I think Chip is tapping into his scheme, were all interchangeable. You need a safety that can cover the slot, we don’t need a big hitter in this defense, we need guys that can move around, blitz and cover. I think he is really building up that position to have longevity on the team.”