In the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft the Philadelphia Eagles selected free safety Ed Reynolds with the 162nd pick. Reynolds, a standout at Stanford, tore his ACL in his sophomore year, but would go on to have a fine career for the Cardinal. According to scouts, Reynolds is a high football IQ player who is a force in the run game. His frame and playing style make him a potential steal for the Eagles if he can fine-tune his game mentally.
Reynolds is currently ranked third on the Eagles’ depth chart at free safety. Free agent acquisitions Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos currently sit in front of Reynolds. However, just because Reynolds is the third free safety on the team doesn’t mean he can’t make the jump to the top strong safety by week one.
Reynolds has the physical skill set and style to play against the run in the NFL and showed flashes of Ed Reed in his junior season at Stanford in pass coverage. In his first year as a full-time starter for the Cardinal, Reynolds racked up 301 yards on interception returns, bringing him one-yard shy of USC’s Charles Phillips 302 yard record set back in 1974. At Stanford, he totaled 89 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 3 interceptions for touchdowns.
As Reynolds has the potential to be a future starter for the Eagles, he also has the potential to fail. Reynolds has had issues in college in the passing game. Good quarterbacks have easily looked him off time and time again. This is something that he must clean up if he is to succeed with the Eagles. Reynolds also has issues in the play-action game.
Scouts imply that Reynolds bites too much on fakes and struggles in some man coverage situations. For Reynolds to be the full time solution at safety, he needs to understand the game at a higher level and allow his mental play to drive him rather than his physical play.
Known as a hard hitter, there were worries amongst NFL teams that with the new rules, Reynolds would give up too many personal fouls for targeting and leading hits with this helmet. In 2013, he was ejected from a conference matchup against Arizona State for targeting quarterback Taylor Kelly.
Nate Allen and Earl Wolff are the top two listed at strong safety for the Eagles. Clearly, both of them have failed to solidify a position that has not been a strength for the Eagles since the days of Brian Dawkins. For years now the Eagles have experimented with players such as Macho Harris, Quentin Demps, Sean Considine, and Marlin Jackson. All of these experiments have cost the Eagles games on many occasions. Reynolds certainly has the opportunity to take over at strong safety given his tough physical play and the current lack of true talent at the position. By now, Nate Allen has shown the extent of his contributions and Earl Wolff is still a question mark. However for Reynolds to surpass Wolff, he must improve on the following:
- Pass defense instincts
- Making smarter hits in the NFL
- Man coverage against receivers
I believe that if Reynolds cleans up his play and performs like the 6-foot-2, hard hitting, ball hawking safety he was in college, he can be a very nice fit for an Eagles defense which lacks a big hitter. As a player built somewhat in the mold of Sean Taylor in both size and playing style, Reynolds has a great opportunity to become a loved player in a city who hates many. Now obviously he has a long ways to go until we can compare his actual play to Sean Taylor and his interception returning ability to Ed Reed’s, but Reynolds has shown flashes in his college career of emulating both. This is why Eagles fans must keep an eye on potentially the most intriguing draft pick made by the team in 2014, Ed Reynolds.