PHILADELPHIA – Plenty of Eagles fans might be worried about Marcus Epps but the Eagles are excited about the fourth-yer safety.
Epps, a former walk-on player in college at Wyoming, is penciled in to be a full-time starter for the first time in 2022 after playing a career-high 45% of the defensive snaps last season as the No. 3 in a safety rotation that also included veterans Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris.
The Eagles allowed the popular McLeod to walk in free agency to Indianapolis and brought back Harris on a one-year, cost-effective deal.
While some nay dream of Cincinnati star Jesse Bates or Philadelphia native Chuck Clark, who seems like the odd man out in Baltimore, on the trade market, if Howie Roseman is able to do something at the position it would likely be the descending Harris, 30, taking the step back not the emerging Epps, who turned 26 back in January.
“Just like any young player, a guy that hasn’t been a full-time starter, it’s just consistency,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said when discussing Epps and his status as a starter this week. “He’s played at a high level the times that he’s played for us, and you have to be able to do that over the long-haul snap after snap.
“Really excited to see him play this year.”
Known as an instinctive center fielder, Epps went from walk-on with Wyoming to sixth-round pick by Minnesota in 2019. He stuck with the Vikings, as a rookie but was ultimately waived at mid-season to bring back long-time starter Andrew Sendejo, who was ironically released by the Eagles in an effort to keep their compensatory-pick house in order.
To replace Sendejo the Eagles claimed Epps in what ended up as essentially a safety for safety trade.
The Vikings may have gotten the best of the wrangling in the short run, especially with Mike Zimmer, who dislikes playing rookies, but the aging Sendejo, 34, is out of the NFL right now just as Epps prepares to take over as a starting player.
“The coaches, they’ve expressed confidence in me,” Epps said. “Obviously, I have a lot of confidence in myself. But just like any other year, man, I still have to come in and prove it. I still have a lot to prove.”
The next step will be consistency, according to Gannon.
“That’s just the thing is just one snap at a time and being a consistent football player and executing at a high level with everything that we ask the safety position to do,” the DC said.
“He’s definitely ready to be a starter,” fellow defensive back Avonte Maddox said when discussing Epps. “He comes out, he puts in the work, he puts in the time, he studies in the film room, he has great fundamentals and details. He makes plays. Last year, he made plays. He’s not afraid to come up and tackle and he’s definitely capable of running 40 yards to the left, 40 yards to the right to stop that fade ball or help that corner out on the fade ball.
“I’m excited to see what he do this year.”
Epps, meanwhile, understands the support is nice but the NFL remains a meritocracy. The Southern California native will stay on the filed if he deserves it.
“Our coaches have been saying something: ‘You have to prove and reprove yourself,’” Epps said. “That’s kind of the way it’s been for me even in college. I was a walk-on. I had to prove and reprove myself. That’s how my mindset has always been. My mindset hasn’t really shifted from that. Always have that chip on my shoulder and feel like I have to prove myself. And even if I prove myself, I have to reprove myself. I’m just going to continue to try to show I belong.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for JAKIB Sports.