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.