The Eagles need Davion Taylor and K’Von Wallace.
They need them to be more than special teamers. More than role players. More than just two more mid-round draft picks who rolled through town, only to land a few years later on the Eagles' draft pick scrapheap.
Taylor and Wallace, a couple defensive draft picks a year ago, are both looking to make a big jump in Year 2, and on a roster with very little young defensive talent, it’s crucial that they do.
Neither played much last year. Taylor played only 32 defensive snaps all year. Wallace got 202 snaps, almost all of them the last few weeks of a lost season.
Taylor, a 3rd-round linebacker from Colorado, and Wallace, a 4th-round safety from Clemson, have both gotten their share of 1st-team reps the first couple days of training camp.
With Rodney McLeod out indefinitely as he continues rehabbing from a torn ACL, and Alex Singleton on the COVID-19 list, there have been opportunities for both Taylor and Wallace.
No pads yet so it’s too early to really draw any real conclusions, but Taylor and Wallace both look more comfortable than last year and both sound more confident.
“The game has slowed down a lot, and the coaches have done a great job putting me in the right position to make plays and make me feel comfortable where I’m at,” Taylor said Thursday.
“Going into Year 2, I feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident. I (have to) still stay hungry, still have to work like Year 1, but to know that I’ve got a year under my belt makes me feel kind of good.
“No more rookie mistakes. Making sure I don’t make the same mistakes (as) last year and just improve from there …and go out and show I belong.”
Last year was a nightmare in so many ways.
With all the COVID rules in place, Taylor and Wallace spent their rookie year in remote meetings, eating lunch by themselves, socially distancing in the locker room and weight room.
It was tough for everybody but even tougher for rookies.
“It made it very difficult for me, honestly,” Wallace said Thursday. “We were going into training camp full-go, we didn’t have OTAs, we only had those virtual meetings and I’m more of a hands-on guy. I need to be out here, make my mistakes on the field and go back and correct them.”
Taylor and Wallace are both doing all the right things. They’re putting in the work. They’re serious about their craft. They’re trying to get better. They're coachable.
For Wallace that meant extra time with secondary coach Dennard Wilson between OTAs and training camp.
“I would just ask, ‘Do you have extra time, 30 or 45 minutes?’ and he would go through a game, he would call out plays and I would make sure I got them on point,” Wallace said. “It really helped me a lot because I came to training camp confident because I know what I can do. Just play fast and let my athleticism show.”
Let’s be honest. The Eagles don’t have much young defensive talent.
Their best defensive players – Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Darius Slay, McLeod – are in their 30s.
The Eagles haven’t drafted a Pro Bowl defensive player since Fletcher Cox in 2012 and they haven’t drafted one after the first round since Trent Cole in 2005.
This franchise desperately needs an infusion of young defensive talent.
Will that be Taylor or Wallace?
They have a shot.
The 6-foot, 230-pound Taylor is a fast, athletic, raw prospect who didn’t play high school football and is only 22. The 5-11, 200-pound Wallace, who turned 24 on Sunday, is a little undersized but a high-octane safety who will never shortchange you on effort.
These are huge reps for Taylor and Wallace. Now they have to find a way to turn them into something more permanent, something more meaningful.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: