Eagles’ safeties rank among league’s best

Philadelphia's Walter Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins are both top-5 safeties this season.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Eagles’ safeties rank among league’s best

Since the departure of Brian Dawkins at the end of the 2008 season, the Eagles have struggled to get consistent play at safety. Second-round picks were invested without return in the likes of Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett, and free agents like Patrick Chung and Jarrad Page have come and gone without success. The Eagles might finally have found a solution, though, in Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond.

Walter Thurmond’s offseason signing was met with little acknowledgement, in contrast to that of his former teammate from Seattle, Byron Maxwell. There’s no doubt, however, who has performed better. Thurmond has a 88.2 grade, good enough for fifth-best in the NFL amongst safeties. He has positive grades in all three facets of play, illustrating the strength of his all-around game.

In coverage, Thurmond’s allowed 10-of-13 targets to be complete for 109 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. In run defense, despite playing just 13.2 percent of snaps in the box, Thurmond has made 10 stops (run stop percentage of 5.9), which is just outside the top 10. With just a pair of missed tackles out of 31 attempts, Thurmond also has a tackling efficiency in the top 20.

The Eagles actually have a pair of former corners at safety in Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins, who played corner at Ohio State. The duo complement each other perfectly. Jenkins plays in the box more frequently (31.8 percent of plays), and is often required to man the slot. He’s been exceptional in that role, recording a 93.5 grade which leaves him behind only Harrison Smith in our safety rankings. Jenkins’ 91.3 coverage grade leads all players at the position. He’s allowed 22 completions on 33 targets for 172 yards, one touchdown, and a pair of pass deflections. Jenkins also forced the key fumble last night of Giants’ RB Rashad Jennings. Although his strength is in coverage, Jenkins can also hold his own in run defense. The former Saint has 16 stops, good enough for third-best in the league. Finally, Jenkins has also been an effective tackler, missing just two attempts out of 37, which leaves him in the top 10 amongst safeties.

Right now, the Eagles’ safety duo of Jenkins and Thurmond can claim to be the best pairing in the league at the position. The play on the back end is one of the main reasons why this Eagles’ defensive unit is so improved, and why Philadelphia now sits atop the NFC East alongside the Giants at 3-3.


| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • Mike B

    Hi John,

    Any thoughts on how Chris Maragos has played? Have noticed his snap counts have been much higher this year than in prior. While he has historically been a special teams player, it seems like he has graded out fairly well.


    • John B

      Hi Mike, he’s done ok. Not really been tested yet, but has a positive grade in his snaps so far.

    • BQNinja

      It should be noted that his snap count is higher because, when the Eagles play nickel, they often move Malcolm Jenkins to the nickel corner spot and put Maragos in as the second safety.

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  • Chris P

    Hi John,

    I’m curious about how much of this performance is due to scheme. It seems like the Eagles play a ton of 1-on-1 with their outside corners with little help over the top. Is that allowing the safeties to better choose their spots?


    • MrBoo

      I think they fit the scheme very well. Maxwell gets not that much help i guess and they shift the FS to the other side. Also their front seven is really strong and its even missing two of the best players (Kiko and Mychal Kendricks).

    • bizzmoneyb

      the fact that they miss very few tackles tells me there play is very good and not just all scheme.

  • bizzmoneyb

    i would say that just the fact that they miss very few tackles tells me their play is very good and not just all scheme.

  • 76hwykid

    They are awesome!

  • Michael G

    Thurmond played at Oregon, not Ohio State.

    • Seth Carberry

      Read that again.. Slowly…Jenkins played at Ohio State.

    • Sok Sao

      I’m pretty sure they meant Malcolm Jenkins played for Ohio State not Walter Thurmond

    • Black Power Ranger

      Do your research you idiot. Taylor Hart (a backup DE), Kenjon Barbre (a fourth string RB), Josh Huff, Walter Thurmond, Kiko Alonso and Brandon Blair are the only Oregon players on the team. How is that a “majority”? Have your own opinion and stop listening to everything you hear.