Executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman says the Eagles are a better football team after free agency and the draft. We're putting his claim to the test, breaking down the depth chart position by position to examine whether the roster really improved or actually took a step back this offseason.
Up next: Safety, where Malcolm Jenkins' exit created either a hole or an opportunity for a younger player.
It's a good thing Jenkins and Rodney McLeod were on the field for almost every snap last season. There was nobody to take their place, especially once Andrew Sendejo was released.
While Jenkins' departure in free agency created a hole (more on that), at least the Eagles have bodies. Jalen Mills moves over from cornerback to take the spot. Will Parks brings four seasons and 15 career starts with the Broncos. And fourth-round pick K'Von Wallace has starter potential, if not in 2020, certainly beyond. Last year's backups, Marcus Epps and Rudy Ford, no longer appear to be part of the equation as long as Mills sticks at safety.
Depth is important, but Jenkins ensured those guys never saw the field in the first place. The three-time Pro Bowler lined up for 100 percent of the snaps for a second consecutive season in 2019. His demise was greatly exaggerated, too. Jenkins has definitely lost a step and made a few more mental mistakes in coverage than usual last year. He still finished with 81 tackles, 6 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 9 quarterback hits, 8 pass breakups and 4 forced fumbles.
Jenkins is a playmaker and a leader. The Eagles didn't want to extend a 32-year-old safety with declining skill, which is understandable — but it's virtually certain his presence will be missed.
The Eagles wisely chose not to make changes at both safety positions in the same offseason, opting instead to re-sign McLeod after another solid campaign.
McLeod is a perfectly cromulent center fielder for Jim Schwartz's defense. He hits hard and flies to the football, finishing last season with 76 tackles, 1.0 sack, 6 pass breakups, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in 16 games after an injury-shortened 2018. With McLeod in the room, the Eagles shouldn't miss Jenkins' leadership, either. It's welcome stability on the back end, especially in the wake of such a major departure.
Mills actually seems like he might be a good fit for the Jenkins role — a box safety who can man up on bigger slot receivers. Thinking Mills will perform at Jenkins' level his first year playing the position is expecting a lot though.
The switch from cornerback isn't as outrageous as it might sound. Mills possesses a high football IQ and undoubtedly already knows where he needs to be. He's mentally tough as well and is going to compete.
Knowing the job and working hard are half the battle though. There are nuances he can only pick up on with experience, and while Mills did play some safety in college, that feels like ages ago. Some kind of learning curve feels inevitable here.
Better or worse?
While there's no getting around the fact that he's slowing down, Jenkins' demise was greatly exaggerated by some critics. He's still a quality football player, and one can easily make the case the Eagles made a mistake letting him go.
Mistake might be a tad strong given his age, and there's enough talent at the position now that the defense should be able to get by with some combination of Mills, Parks and Wallace alongside McLeod. But there's really no question that — in 2020 at least — the Eagles would've been a better team with Jenkins than they are without him.
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