All-22: Examining Will Parks’ Strengths, Weaknesses
The Eagles bolstered their defense Saturday, signing former Denver Broncos safety Will Parks to a 1-year deal.
Parks, a Philadelphia native, was selected in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of the University of Arizona. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound defensive back has appeared in 62 career games (15 starts), registering 149 tackles (4 for loss), 13 passes defended, four interceptions, a sack, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
With the departure of longtime centerpiece Malcolm Jenkins, and with Jalen Mills making the transition from cornerback, Parks figures to have a legitimate opportunity to earn a starting job in Philadelphia. A strong third-phase performer with the Broncos, Parks should also invigorate a special teams unit that recently lost captain Kamu Grugier-Hill to the Miami Dolphins.
The clips below illustrate some of the strengths and limitations of the Eagles’ latest addition.
Let’s start with a strength — Parks’ versatility. In the first clip, Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson team as the free safety and strong safety, respectively, while Parks (34), the third safety, lines up in the slot. Blitzing off the edge, Parks fires into the backfield untouched, dropping quarterback Phillip Rivers for a seven-yard loss.
This is just one example of how defensive coordinator Ed Donatell deployed Parks, who boasts the versatility to line up anywhere on the back end.
Parks is a willing tackler, too. In this clip, against the Jaguars, Parks (34) meets bruising Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette in the hole and limits him to a three-yard pickup.
The key here was leverage. As Fournette begins to lower his shoulder in preparation for contact, Parks gets lower to make a form tackle.
In addition to his defensive contributions, Parks also figures to serve as a prominent special teams performer in Philadelphia. Watch as he bursts onto the scene unblocked from the right, stripping Vikings kick returner Ameer Abdullah in a play that ultimately results in a Minnesota turnover.
The next clip shows Parks taking a poor angle in pursuit of the ballcarrier.
Parks (top left) crashes into the alley with a bead on Fournette, only to have Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (17) come across from the left and wipe him out, which ultimately paved the way for an 11-yard pickup.
The next clip comes from a mid-October matchup against the Tennessee Titans. On this particular play, Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson man the center of the field, while Parks (34) lines up in the slot as an extra defensive back.
Drawing Titans’ tight end Anthony Firkser in coverage, Parks ends up in poor position as he lets Firkser reel in a 25-yard strike from Ryan Tannehill on 3rd-and-11.
While Parks appears to be a versatile, instinctual defensive back with a solid football IQ, a glaring flaw in his game is his inability to consistently make plays in space.
Here, Fournette gashes through Denver’s defensive front and makes it to the third level with a full head of steam.
As Fournette approaches Parks in the open field, Parks lunges at Fournette’s ankles. Fournette barely breaks stride on his way to an 81-yard rumble.
While he’s flashed at times throughout his career, Parks is ideally suited to be a key reserve and special teams contributor.
If he plays to his potential in what’s expected to be an expanded role in Philadelphia, however, he could prove to be one of the better value signings of free agency.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.
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