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Training Camp Position Preview: Safety 

Reed Blankenship
Reed Blankenship

The headline of the safety position in the Eagles' offseason was the return of C.J. Gardner-Johnson following his one-year stint in Detroit. The addition of Gardner-Johnson will provide the defense with not only a familiar face, but a spark that seemed to be missing in 2023. He was injured for most of his time with the Lions but had 17 tackles and an interception in three regular season games, along with 12 tackles and an interception in the playoffs.

Gardner-Johnson's counterpart on the backline of the defense will be the third-year man Reed Blankenship. Blankenship showed a great amount of potential in his first year as a full-time starter last season, recording a team-best 108 tackles (most by an Eagles safety since 1994) and three interceptions.

Sydney Brown, while still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Week 18 last year, will enter Year 2. Brown is a versatile player that showed flashes of his ability in his rookie season. The former third-round pick tallied 38 tackles and led the team with seven special teams' tackles. Brown made highlight plays in big moments, including a 99-yard pick-six against the Cardinals (tied fourth longest interception return in team history) and forcing CeeDee Lamb to fumble as time expired to seal an Eagles victory over the Cowboys.

Tristin McCollum and Mekhi Garner are young players that saw some action last season and who can go back-and-forth between the safety and corner positions. The pair signed futures contracts after being elevated from the practice squad last season.

New to the Nest: Gardner-Johnson will return to the team he once made history with by becoming the first Eagles' player to record five straight games with an interception since the 1970 merger. This time, he's even hungrier for something he and the team came close to achieving in 2022: a Super Bowl. Andre' Sam was picked up as an undrafted free agent following the draft. Sam brings in a ton of football experience from college and was LSU's Defensive Player of the Year in 2023. Sam finished his collegiate career with 317 tackles and nine interceptions.

Bird Talk: "I want to finish something I started. I think coming here and doing things with the guys I started with, getting to a level most guys can't make it to, I think coming home and playing with a group that's ready to get back where we were and just continue to be great." – safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Notable Stat: In 2022, Gardner-Johnson tied for the most interceptions (6) in the league and became the first Eagle to record that many interceptions in a season since Brandon Boykin in 2013. In 2023, Blankenship was one of only five players to record at least 100 tackles, three interceptions, and 10 pass deflections in a season.

Under the Microscope: The health of Gardner-Johnson will be an important factor for this safety position. Who will step up to provide depth outside of Brown? There are currently five players listed at safety on the roster, what that number will look like post Training Camp will be interesting. While the talent is there, it will be about putting it all together with new Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio. – Written by Liam Wichser

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