It took the Philadelphia Eagles nearly five years to find a proper replacement for Brian Dawkins at safety. Now there’s a bit of history repeating as the organization enters into Year 2 without Malcolm Jenkins.
The three-time Pro Bowler took over for Dawkins in 2014 and finally brought stability to the free safety position after years of failed experiments. Jenkins was the team’s unquestioned leader and defensive captain who patrolled the Eagles’ secondary for 96 games. Philadelphia chose to let him walk in free agency following the 2019 season during a petty contract dispute. The New Orleans Saints rushed in and inked Jenkins to a cheap four-year deal worth $32 million.
One of the deciding factors for the Eagles in letting Jenkins go was that the aging star’s play was starting to decline. He registered zero interceptions during his final year in Philly while recording 16 less total tackles. There were also soft whispers about him losing a step, something the front office said about Dawkins in 2008.
Well, Jenkins returned to New Orleans – the franchise that drafted him 14th overall in 2009 – and put everyone on notice. The 33-year-old tied a career-high with three interceptions in 2020 while posting 10 pass breakups (Jenkins’ most since 2015). He had 91 tackles, including seven tackles for loss. Not only that, Jenkins did it through the uncertainties of a season impacted by COVID-19.
“Last year was a bit awkward for me because everything was shut down, we were kind of in isolation as players trying to get through the season,” Jenkins told the Saints’ website. “I didn’t really get a chance to get out in the city.”
The Eagles are still searching to replace Jenkins’ production. Veteran Rodney McLeod and newcomer Anthony Harris are expected to be Philly’s starting safety tandem in 2021, with Andrew Adams, Elijah Riley, Grayland Arnold, K’Von Wallace, Marcus Epps rounding out the depth chart.
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Jenkins, Eagles Starters Make Over-30 List
Jenkins was one of 11 players to make a CBS Sports’ list of the best defensive starters over the age of 30. He joined Harrison Smith (Minnesota Vikings) and Jordan Poyer (Buffalo Bills) as the best safeties from the NFL’s geriatric ward. Meanwhile, the Eagles had two Pro Bowlers make the final cut – Brandon Graham, at defensive end; Fletcher Cox, at defensive tackle – and were the only NFL team with multiple players on the list.
Good news? Maybe not. Having that many aging veterans on the roster isn’t necessarily a positive thing. It means they will have to replace them soon, as John Breech was quick to point out.
Carson Wentz Banner Officially Comes Down
The Carson Wentz banner on the side of Lincoln Financial Field officially came down on Monday. The photo of the one-time franchise quarterback had become a lightning rod for criticism in recent weeks – sparked by this Heavy.com post about angry Eagles fans – and a sign of organizational dysfunction. Not anymore. Wentz is gone from the side of the stadium, erased from both the roster and memory.
Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in February for a third-round draft pick this year and a conditional second-rounder in 2022. His image had been a stinging reminder of unfulfilled expectations of the “new normal.” Now the conversation turns to what picture goes up in Wentz’s place. Jason Kelce, Brian Dawkins, or Brandon Graham appear to be the leading candidates.