July 30, 2023   4 MIN READ

‘Ship Shape

Obscure Second-Year Safety 'Taking Next Step'


He picked off Aaron Rodgers and, incredibly, became the first Eagles undrafted defensive rookie to start a postseason game.

But Reed Blankenship, just about 15 months ago, was difficult to differentiate from the group of relatively obscure defensive backs vying for training camp reps, let alone a roster spot.

When the calendar turned to August and the pads came on, the Middle Tennessee State product – last summer sporting the nondescript No. 46  – showcased an enforcer’s mentality that complemented his tenacity.

He emerged from the depths as a viable roster contender by summer’s end, then went on to appear in 10 games (four starts), logging 291 defensive snaps and accounting for 45% of the total.

Reed Blankenship

GETTY IMAGES: He’s no lock, but second-year S Reed Blankenship is poised to start opposite Terrell Edmunds.

He started the NFC Divisional playoff game while C.J. Gardner-Johnson remained on the mend, combining for five stops, including a tackle for loss.

When the 2022 starting safety tandem of Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps departed in free agency, the Eagles didn’t take drastic measures to replenish the position in response.

For the time being, anyway, their plan appears to be moving forward with the homegrown Blankenship in a considerably more prominent role.

When camp opened Wednesday, Blankenship was among the handful of new faces who graced the first-team defense, aligning opposite free-agent veteran Terrell Edmunds.

Although Blankenship has vaulted up the Eagles’ depth chart, the 24-year-old must build upon his foundation to ensure his first-team standing remains uncontested.

Though questions surrounding his coverage, speed, and experience figure to persist, early returns would seem to indicate the contrary.

“He’s calling out plays, as far as what the offense is trying to do,” said cornerback James Bradberry following Friday’s practice. “And I think that’s the next step in his game.

“He pretty much knows how defenses work. Of course, you gotta learn the terminology. The next step is to pretty much learn the concept of the offense that they’re trying to run and be able to call them out once you see it.”

A typical Eagles summer storyline, the annual safety carousel has prompted its usual skepticism and distress.

While Edmunds, a 2018 first-round pick who has appeared in 79 career games (75 starts), figures to have a somewhat seamless acclimation to the freshly implemented scheme of new coordinator Sean Desai, the former Steeler’s resume shows scant turnover production and a limited skill set.

Blankenship doesn’t have Edmunds’ first-round pedigree, resume, or otherworldly measureables. The second-year pro has reached this point because of shrewd football intellect, diligent preparation, and steadfast determination.

Couple that with his no-holds-barred style of play, and Blankenship conjures memories of a throwback defender.

And while the cohesive, veteran-laden cornerback tandem of Bradberry and Darius Slay performed as a top duo last season, they did so bracketing a vastly different safety combination, which at least on the surface, could potentially pose communication blunders in the early going.

Two days into camp, however, all appears to be well on the communication front.

“It’s going well,” Bradberry added. “Those guys are smart, so they picked up the terminology and they’re able to communicate. And shout out to Nakobe Dean, because he’s doing a great job of communicating as well.”

Make no mistake, Blankenship will be pushed.

So will Edmunds.

Though operating exclusively with the third team for now, third-round rookie Sydney Brown looms large and could factor into the equation.

There’s also the possibility that all three fail to inspire confidence, influencing a late-summer trade to restore order.

With the team’s Super Bowl window wedged open, all options remain on the table with Howie Roseman, the team’s executive vice president of football operations, at the controls.

Still, given what we know and all things being equal, it would be prudent to etch Blankenship’s name atop the positional hierarchy.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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