They are the last line of defense and protectors of the end zone. Whether it is coming up to stop the run or dropping back to help against the deep bomb, safeties wreak havoc all over the field.
Safeties are bigger than corners but faster than linebackers, allowing them to either dish out punishing hits or pick off passes at their will.
The undeniable leader of the Eagles' safety unit is also one of the most beloved athletes in Philadelphia sports history. Brian Dawkins is in the final year of his contract and a Super Bowl would put the finishing touch on a sure-fire Hall of Fame career.
Dawkins struggled last season, appearing in only 10 games and tied his career low with 51 tackles. But like his favorite superhero Wolverine, the 13-year veteran is likely to return back stronger than before and hungry to return to supreme safety status.
Alongside Dawkins will be Quintin Mikell. The strong safety spot seems to be Mikell's to lose. Waiting in the weeds to snatch up any vacancy is Sean Considine, J.R. Reed, Marcus Paschal and rookie Quintin Demps.
Mikell is a young, athletic safety with a knack for making plays. He proved he was a force to be reckoned with last season when injuries to Dawkins and Considine thrust him into the starting lineup. Mikell played in 14 games (11 starts) and led the entire secondary with a career-high 98 tackles, while also notching a sack and an interception.
"Quintin, by the end of the season, was playing at a Pro Bowl caliber level as a safety," head coach Andy Reid said. "We knew what a great special teams player he was, but he became an even better safety."
One of six rookie free agents to make the opening day roster in 2003, Mikell has posted a team-leading 115 special teams tackles during that time span and was voted the Eagles' special teams MVP in 2005 and 2006.
Considine took over for Michael Lewis halfway through the 2006 season and produced as the starting safety. The 6-0, 212-pound former Hawkeye finished with 107 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries that year. However, he is coming off of a 2007 campaign in which he only played in eight games, all of which he started in, and registered 47 tackles and one interception. Considine re-injured the shoulder that put him on injured reserve in his rookie season.
"One of the things I've noticed on film is that the last two years, I never tackled one time with my left shoulder," Considine said. "My mindset was to get back as fast as I could. I was pushing through pain and it was just making it worse. After a year and a half, my shoulder was still hurting me, and I think what I did was loosen it back up from the original surgery and finally it popped out last year. But this time I just did everything they told me, I followed protocol, and here I am six months later and I feel 100 percent better than I ever felt after the first surgery."
Reed, entering his fifth NFL season, was with the Giants for training camp in 2007. He was then claimed off waivers by the Eagles prior to the start of the regular season. With the use of a personalized prosthetic brace, Reed was once again able to showcase his abilities, and went on to play in 15 games (three starts), tallying a career-high 33 tackles, while returning 31 kickoffs for a 22.6 average.
The youngest members of the group are Paschal, who is entering his second season, and Demps, who was drafted in the fourth round (117th overall).
A rookie free agent in 2007, Paschal was promoted from the practice squad on November 7 and played in three games. An Iowa alum, Paschal was a defensive backfield mate of Considine in 2003-04.
One of the top playmaking defensive backs in college football, Demps' 17 career interceptions were the most among all players in the 2008 draft class and rank second in both Conference USA and UTEP school history. His 24 career knockdowns are tied for second on the school's all-time list. In 2007, the 23-year-old earned third team All-American and All-Conference USA honors as he set school and league records by posting 220 return yards on five interceptions (two touchdowns). He also tallied 72 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and nine knock downs.
In 2005, Demps intercepted former Houston and current Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb twice, including a game-sealing interception in overtime of a 44-41 victory.
JUST A YEAR AGO ...
Brian Dawkins never got on pace after suffering a stinger injury in Week 2. Quintin Mikell took over midseason for Sean Considine and played at a "Pro Bowl" level, according to head coach Andy Reid, by the end of the season. The Eagles kept four safeties after training camp. Marcus Paschal beat out draft pick C.J. Gaddis for a roster spot, but was demoted to the practice squad to make room for J.R. Reed.
BATTLE TO WATCH: Quintin Mikell vs. Sean Considine
Considine had another surgery on his left shoulder and says that he feels this time he is back to where he once was.