Eagles

Eagles

As the Eagles began the 11-on-11 portion of practice on Thursday morning at training camp, there was an unfamiliar sight in the secondary.

No Malcolm Jenkins.

The 28-year-old safety and unquestioned leader of the Eagles’ defense, who has played more snaps than anyone in the NFL over the last two seasons, pulled up lame with a hamstring injury while in coverage earlier in practice (see story).

Jenkins out. Ed Reynolds in.

“I think as of right now, I take it as an opportunity to showcase that if that happened in a game, I'm ready,” said the 24-year-old Reynolds, who was a fifth-round pick in 2014 but has just six NFL games under his belt.

“I don't think that it means that I'm a lock at that spot or anything of that sort. I take it as an opportunity to go out there, play with the ones and make sure there's no drop-off when Malcolm or Rodney [McLeod] go down.”

It’s rare that Jenkins gets hurt. In fact, last season he missed just two snaps and he’s missed just seven in his two seasons with the Eagles. In 2015, Jenkins was first in the league in snaps and his fellow safety Walter Thurmond was second.

This season, Jenkins forms what is likely to be one of the best safety duos in the league with McLeod.

 

“But the facts are we need those guys behind them to step up,” said defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who has praised Jenkins and McLeod in the past. “We need to find out who’s going to be our third and fourth and maybe even a potential fifth, with special teams and stuff like that.

“When a guy goes down, it’s a great opportunity for those other guys to step up. But the opportunity only exists if you take advantage of it. Most guys need to do a better job taking advantage of it.”

As Thursday proved, the Eagles are one injury away from seeing Reynolds or Jaylen Watkins or Chris Maragos on the field. That makes the third safety spot all the more important, especially in a scheme where the two safeties are very interchangeable.

It seems, for now, that Reynolds is the next guy up. He took all the first-team reps in Jenkins’ spot next to McLeod on Thursday.

“It felt good,” McLeod said of playing with Reynolds. “Actually, in OTAs we kind of mixed up the lineup a little bit, so everybody kind of worked with everybody in OTAs, so it wasn’t a falloff. Made the checks that needed to be made. He’s gone against the ones, he knows the checks, he knows the calls. He handled himself well.”

After being taken in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of Stanford, Reynolds spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad. That’s also where he started the 2015 season before being called up to the 53-man roster in November.

Once he was called up, Reynolds played quite a bit in the last six games in 2015 and even made three starts. He played 310 snaps — 66 percent — over the last six games.

Reynolds said those extended reps last season have been a “big help” during this summer’s training camp. But the reason he played so much last season was because Jenkins would slide into the slot in the nickel package and Reynolds would come on the field to take that safety spot. This year, Jenkins hasn’t been working as the slot corner, so there could be less opportunity coming Reynolds’ way in 2016.

Still, he’s the top backup.

At least for now.

“I think right now, this early in camp, everything is wide open,” Reynolds said. “It just so happened today on the depth chart I was running with the twos and I was right behind Malcolm. Malcolm went down and I went up.”