For the first two weeks of Training Camp, the safety position had been relatively clear-cut. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod led the way while Tre Sullivan, a rookie on the Eagles' practice squad last year, has received reps as the third safety.
But Corey Graham, who was crucial in last season’s Super Bowl run behind Jenkins and McLeod, was re-signed by the Eagles. Sullivan’s spot is now more complicated and competitive.
Sullivan sees Graham’s signing as a benefit. For the 24-year-old who was signed as an undrafted free agent last season out of Shepherd, adding another veteran in the defensive backs room will only be a positive influence.
“I expected him to come back and I’m actually glad he’s back,” Sullivan said. “I’m a young player. Everything isn’t just going to be handed to me. I know I have to learn and have to grow as a player and I feel like my ceiling is extremely high and I’m glad those guys are around me to help me learn.”
The Eagles announced Graham’s one-year deal on Sunday morning, and he joined the team for its practice at Lincoln Financial Field that night. Sullivan said Graham has already been a valuable asset since his return.
“First day back, he’s telling me things in the film room, things that he sees, what he saw when he was away, so I appreciate those guys a tremendous amount,” Sullivan said. “I’m glad that they’re around.”
Sullivan received plenty of extra reps in camp while Graham was away. He said that time was critical in improving his game and being ready to come in to play whenever he is called upon.
“It’s very important to me,” Sullivan said. “As you guys saw last year, with how many guys went down with injuries and stuff like that, you have to be ready at all times. I’m glad I got those reps so that if anything did happen, I’m here to make things happen.”
During that time, Sullivan also said that playing directly behind Jenkins and McLeod taught him about the mental aspect of his position. With 15 years of experience between the two of them, they have plenty of wisdom to offer.
“Just maturity in the position of playing safety,” Sullivan said. “It comes with a lot of repetition and being patient. Right now, I’m so quick to do things now and I see how Malcolm, Rodney, and Corey all play, and I’m trying to instill that into my game. So it’s great being around them and learning.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was complimentary of Sullivan’s play so far this summer. While competing with rookies Stephen Roberts and Jeremy Reaves, Sullivan has stood out in both the base and big nickel packages.
“He's had an outstanding camp,” Schwartz said when he met with the media on Monday. “He's a young player. He plays fast. He's still a work in progress, but he's trending the right way.
“I’m not done yet. I feel like I’m nowhere close to my ceiling," Sullivan said.
While Sullivan has impressed so far and will be around even more talent with Graham in the mix, he knows he has "a lot more work to put in." The next challenge comes on Thursday when the Eagles take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason opener. Sullivan has not played in a live game since the exhibition finale against the Jets last season.
“I’m going into it as I did last year,” Sullivan said. “I’m here to prove myself, to show my talents, and things like that. So, I’m excited for Thursday. I can’t wait.”