The Eagles aren’t going to bowl anyone over at the safety position but the late addition of veteran Jaquiski Tartt provides a semblance of insurance with the goal of finding competent play on the back end.
Veteran Anthony Harris, back for a second season in Philadelphia at a reduced price, is tentatively penciled in to start alongside the emerging Marcus Epps.
The 26-year-old Epps played well in a rotational role last season, participating in a career-high 45% of the snaps, as a buttress to Harris and fellow veteran Rodney McLeod, who is now in Indianapolis. In fact, Epps was the Eagles’ best safety at times last season and was graded as such by Pro Football Focus.
There is at least some concern when it comes to what has been a part-time player holding up with full-time duties so there is no downside after sifting through the bargain bin and coming out of it with Tartt, who has extensive starting experience over seven seasons with some very good defenses in San Francisco. The negative to Tartt, 30, is a reputation for missing games each season, a total of 31 over the past five years.
You get the feeling that defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and secondary coach Dennard Wilson want the upside and youth of Epps on the field and a steady presence next to him with either Harris or Tartt filling that role.
If Epps falters, however, there are two veterans who’ve played a lot of football who can at least hold down the fort and limit mental errors.
K’Von Wallace, a fourth-round pick in 2020, hasn’t developed like the Eagles had hoped by this point and will be given one more opportunity to prove he can be a contributor.
Andre Chachere, a waiver-wire pickup from Indy last season, has cornerback/safety versatility but his path to the 53-man roster is special teams where he proved to be an excellent gunner at times last season before tapering off late.
The other safeties in the mix are Jared Mayden, who made some plays in the limited opportunities reporters were able to see in the spring, and undrafted free agent Reed Blankenship.
Depth Chart Entering TC:
FS: Marcus Epps; Jaquiski Tartt; Andre Chachere
SS: Anthony Harris; K’Von Wallace; Jared Mayden; Reed Blankenship
Replacing McLeod with Tartt seems like a lateral move and the Eagles are losing something in the locker room and community because McLeod was entrenched as a team leader. On the field, however, the swap is negligible and Tartt may actually be the better player at this point. The underlying thought process is the transitions to Epps will be easier on the public front because the locals have no affinity for Tartt, unlike McLeod.
The only other newcomer is Blankenship, who has decent size and looked like a potential undrafted surprise before Tartt was brought in. Now the goal for Blankenship is the practice squad and a year to develop.
The August Angle:
Epps is a player the Eagles really seem to like and will be given every opportunity to run with the baton. Joint practices against Cleveland and Miami will be key for the one-time walk-on at Wyoming who must prove he’s a capable option with some playmaking ability on the back end. Philadelphia needs a cornerstone at safety and Epps is the only realistic option entering training camp.
Who Stays on the 53:
You should feel pretty comfortable penciling in Epps, Harris, Tartt, and Wallace. Chachere will try to earn a spot on special teams but must prove he can be more consistent there.
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