The Eagles’ second-year safety was fighting to open the eyes of the coaching staff last August as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State. Fast forward 12 months and it’s Blankenship who is the daily presence in a safety group attempting to replace 2022-23 starters: Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
The fact that Blankenship approaches things in the exact same fashion whether he’s the last man on the depth chart or the top dog may be the best example of how he quickly evolved from undesirable to undeniable.
“You still have to keep that mentality,” Blankenship said following Thursday’s practice, the Eagles’ last full practice before Saturday’s preseason opener at Baltimore. “I still keep a chip on my shoulder. I’ve got a lot to prove. I enjoy playing this game and I want to play it as long as I can.
Blankenship has handled all the first-team reps at one safety spot while the other has been a rotation between free-agent pickup Terrell Edmunds and K’Von Wallace with rookie third-round pick Sydney Brown lurking.
“I see Reed growing each and every day,” said cornerback James Bradberry. “I think he’ll have a bigger role this year, of course, because we lost some safeties. He’s picking up the defense and, also, he’s really learning how offenses work in the league, so I think he’s going to think a lot faster.”
Blankenship became the first undrafted rookie to intercept Aaron Rodgers last season and he’s one of the few Philadelphia defenders who has victimized Jalen Hurts in practice this summer.
“It’s a big confidence (boost) regardless of who the quarterback is, just having an interception in general,” said Blankenship. “You’re out there to play. You’re supposed to make those plays but as a player, it calms you down a little bit more. You’re mellowed out and you’re just playing the game at your speed now.”
Blankenship was one of three undrafted free agents to make the 2022 initial 53-man roster, along with cornerback Josh Jobe and offensive lineman Josh Sills.
Jobe has impressed this summer both as an injury replacement for Bradberry and with second-team reps while Sills recently returned to the team after being acquitted of rape and kidnapping charges.
Blankenship, meanwhile, offered up some advice to this year’s crop of undrafted hopefuls who hope to follow in the safety’s path with Saturday’s preseason opener looming.
“Have fun,” Blankenship said. “Football doesn’t change. It’s a violent sport and when the pads come on, just go have fun.”