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Spadaro: Safety in numbers for Eagles

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

This has been a theme for the Eagles throughout this 2022 regular season, so the uncertainty at the safety position as injuries impact the week-to-week depth chart is being handled with a matter-of-fact, next-man-up approach.

Only this time, one of the next men up could be a player added to the practice squad during one of the craziest years of his NFL career.

OK, let's get you caught up with what's happening (although I just know that you, being a great Eagles fan, don't miss a beat):

1. C.J. Gardner-Johnson will miss his third straight game on Sunday when the Eagles play in Chicago after suffering a lacerated kidney in the win over Green Bay on November 27. He was replaced by rookie Reed Blankenship, who had an interception in that game and then started in the wins over Tennessee and the New York Giants. Blankenship played well and appeared ready to hold down the safety position alongside Marcus Epps until ...

2. In Sunday's win at the Giants, Blankenship suffered a knee injury and was helped off the field and then carted to the locker room and it appeared that the injury could be something serious. The good news is that it doesn't appear to be an injury that will keep him off the field for an extended period of time, but Blankenship is out this week. It would appear, however, the Eagles have an answer on the roster who is eager to get his shot ...

3. That player is third-year man K'Von Wallace, who replaced Blankenship at MetLife Stadium and played a season-high 46 snaps (he has played a total of 111 defensive snaps in 2022), making 5 tackles and settling in at the position.

4. To make sure they have enough depth at the position – you always have to be forward-thinking in this NFL, right? – the Eagles signed veteran Anthony Harris to the practice squad. Yes, the same Anthony Harris who started 14 games for the Eagles in 2021 after playing six seasons in Minnesota and, in 2019, having a league-high six interceptions and earning a season (2020) as the Vikings' franchise player when he earned more than $11 million. Harris was released by the Eagles when they traded for Gardner-Johnson just before the start of this 2022 season and he landed with the Denver Broncos, where he played in three games.

Got all that? There is no timetable on Gardner-Johnson's return – he is on Injured Reserve through at least the game against Dallas – or Blankenship, for that matter, and in the meantime, the Eagles are making due as players step up when they have the opportunity to play.

It's a wild and crazy world, this NFL, and both Wallace and Harris know it.

"You have to stay ready at all times," Wallace said. "I feel good about where I am. I've got a lot of work to do. I've got a lot of preparation to put in, a lot of film to keep watching. But we're in this organization for a reason and that's because we have talented players making plays and I'm just trying to contribute the best way I know how. I know what I need to do: Trust myself, trust the game plan that JG (Jonathan Gannon, defensive coordinator) has for us, and trust the players around me and they trust me.

"We'll do that and then go out there and play full speed."

For Harris, the return to the NovaCare Complex has been an example of how the NFL works: No matter where you are, prepare yourself for when the phone might ring. And if does ring, make sure you are ready to go.

Harris has had an unsettling year in the sense that he hasn't had the stability players crave, but he's learned to roll with it and make the best of the situation.

"I have to stay consistent with who I am and not let outcomes dictate my moods or affect my habits, unless it's to improve me for the better," he said. "Whatever situation I'm in, I try to evaluate how I can improve myself. That's what this league is all about. You have to move forward. It was good to walk back into the building. There are a lot of familiar faces, a lot of good relationships that were built in the time that I was here, so to come back in and see familiar faces and continue to build with my teammates and other individuals in the building, has been good.

"Anything can happen if you stay around the NFL long enough. You'll see it all. I think it's always about being grateful for where you're at, but also for being hungry and remaining humble at the same. Put your best foot forward, proving your worth and proving your ability. That's what it's all about."

Sunday, the challenge is Chicago quarterback Justin Fields, a dynamic threat as a passer (13 touchdown passes) and as a runner (905 yards, 8 touchdowns). The Eagles have to be sound. They have to understand that Fields is going to make some plays.

"He's a very talented quarterback and we have to be on our stuff to attack him," said Wallace, who faced Fields in the College Football Playoffs in the 2019 season when his Clemson Tigers beat Ohio State. "He can beat you running 80 yards. He can sling the ball 60 yards. He can do it all."

However it plays out at safety, the Eagles need to have answers. The defense has had them all season and Sunday in Chicago is no exception.

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