When the offseason began, the Philadelphia Eagles had no bigger need than at safety, where only 2013 fifth-round pick Earl Wolff and practice-squad standout Keelan Johnson were under contract. Since then, the Birds brought in Malcolm Jenkins during free agency, re-signed Nate Allen to a one-year deal, and, most recently, added Ed Reynolds through the draft.
We know Jenkins has one of the two starting jobs locked down. Within one hour of free agency opening, the exiled New Orleans Saint had a three-year pact worth $8.5 million guaranteed from Philadelphia. He’s here to play.
On the other hand, the spot opposite Jenkins is wide open. Allen was retained in part because the former second-round pick improved gradually as last season went along—actually, he was fairly solid. Additionally, while Wolff held his own in 11 games as a rookie, the coaching staff didn’t see enough to feel comfortable handing over a starting job uncontested.
So with there being an open competition for that second slot, does Reynolds have a shot at starting as a rookie?
Well, we can’t completely rule it out. Head coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis are going to put the best player on the field, regardless of who that is. There were no promises made to Allen when he re-signed, and certainly not to Wolff.
That being said, it’s highly unlikely. Allen and Wolff both demonstrated competent safety play last season, and both have a year under their belt in Davis’ system, so the advantages are clear. Reynolds beating both of them out in training camp would be a massive upset, to say the least.
Then again, the potential also exists for Reynolds to be worked into the mix slowly, something the coaching staff was trying to do with Wolff last year, until injuries pressed the rookie into the lineup. Being a Stanford guy, one might assume (correctly or not) Reynolds would be a fast learner. If he gets into games and proves he’s a better option, who knows what the depth chart looks like come December.
There’s a lot to like about Reynolds from a size and athleticism standpoint. He’s 6’1”, 207 pounds and runs well enough. Based on his measureables, he could see some spot duty manning up against tight ends—although scouting reports indicate he has limited experience in man coverage.
He’s demonstrated a knack for making big plays as well. Reynolds led the Pac-12 with six interceptions in 2012, three of which were returned for touchdowns. He only came up with one during his senior season, but they average out to impressive numbers nonetheless.
Still, Reynolds’ best prospects to start may not come until a year down the road or later, after he’s had time to get acclimated to the system and speed of the NFL. Even then, as a fifth-round pick, it’s not like he’ll ever be handed the job.
Reynolds will likely have to grind and scrap to earn a role on defense at the next level. He’ll contribute on special teams as a rookie and attempt to climb the daunting depth chart ladder, one rung at a time.