The second-year safety went from undrafted afterthought to kicking off OTAs as a starter in the back end of the Eagles’ defense, alongside veteran free-agent pickup Terrell Edmunds.
Blankenship was even given the podium treatment after practice, a nice little perk for a player who is now expected to be a key member of the defensive backfield.
“Obviously nothing’s really changed,” Blankenship said of his mindset. “I love the game. I want to play it for as long as my body allows me to. Rent’s due every day. That’s what [coach Nick] Sirianni talks about. No matter what position you’re in, I haven’t felt that I’ve arrived yet. I’m still staying humble, staying hungry and that’s going to last throughout my career.”
It was Blankenship, not premium draft picks like Jordan Davis, Can Jurgens, or Nakobe Dean that played the most snaps among the Eagles’ rookies last season and Philadelphia got the diamond in the rough for a signing bonus of $5,000.
A five-year starter at Middle Tennessee State, Blankenship began to turn the corner in the coaching staff’s eyes when the pads went on and he was able to show his physicality.
“It’s a violent sport,” Blankenship said of football. “You run and hit. That’s what I’ve been doing since I was little.”
While penciled in as a starter, Blankenship will need to earn the spot this summer with heavy competition expected from third-round rookie Sydney Brown.
“He realizes this is an opportunity for him to really go and snatch this position,” Eagles defensive backs coach D.K. McDonald said of Blankenship. “I love how he competes. I love how smart he is and what he does on the field. Now, he’s taken that next step to being a leader back there on the back end for us, which is really fun to watch.”
McDonald also said Blankenship’s mindset hasn’t changed but his confidence has grown by holding up at a high level when forced into action last season.
“One thing that hasn’t changed about Reed is he’s always been a hard worker,” McDonald assessed. “He’s always been curious, and that hasn’t changed for him at all. What has changed is naturally going out on the field and having the success that he did and taking some lumps that he did.
“Now, he’s playing with a little more confidence now that we’re out there on the field, but that’s what you want from a guy who’s been out there and played NFL games, been out there in the Linc. You want a guy now to be able to be a little more comfortable in his communication, take charge more.”
Blankenship learned the art of that communication, particularly from Marcus Epps, who signed with Las Vegas in the offseason.
“Me coming in as a rookie I didn’t know a lot of guys. He was my go-to,” Blankenship said of Epps. “I kind of looked at him as a big brother. I asked him a lot of questions. That’s the type of vet I like to have in a room, that you can ask a question regardless of who you are, a rookie or whatever, and he’s going to answer you.”
Blankenship is on his way to being that guy for younger players, especially undrafted ones who see a steep hill to climb.
“Just work hard. You have to love the game,” Blankenship said when asked what his advice is to the current undrafted free agents. “At the end of the day it’s a business, but if you show everybody you love the game and you go hard every day. You have to have that mentality and you’re going to make somebody look at you. That was my goal. I just wanted somebody to know who I was and know that I truly love the game.”