Throughout this offseason the Philadelphia Eagles have made a bevy of roster moves and staff hires (Offense and Defense). Across the board each move had one distinct characteristic: Versatility.
When the Eagles declined Malcolm Jenkins’ option many fans were disappointed given everything Jenkins brought to Jim Schwartz’s defense the past couple of seasons. Jenkins played safety, cornerback and even linebacker at times in Schwartz’s defense. In replacing Jenkins, GM Howie Roseman opted for a trio of extremely multifaceted replacements.
The first move, resigning Jalen Mills and moving him from cornerback to safety, a position he played a bit at LSU. Mills versatility was explicitly shown in week 11 of last season Vs. the New England Patriots, in which he played 74 snaps across 5 different positions on defense (according to NBC Sports Philadelphia). Mills played Left Corner, Free Safety and Slot Corner. He even lined up in the box and played up at the line of scrimmage during the week 11 matchup. The move to safety may be even better suited for Mills considering his physical playstyle.
The next addition came in the form of former Denver Broncos Safety, Will Parks. The Philadelphia native is one of the most versatile defensive backs in the league as over the course of his 4 year career, he lined up at linebacker, nickel corner, both safety positions and contributed on special teams as well.
Finally, the third addition to the safety room may be the most versatile of all the additions. K’Von Wallace was one of the most versatile defensive players in the entire draft. At Clemson, Wallace displayed his ability to cover, tackle, and rush the passer. Wallace is aware of the reason the Eagles drafted him, saying “I feel my versatility is one of the reasons the Eagles drafted me.” The multitude of skills Wallace brings may ultimately be what drew the Eagles to select Wallace in the 4th round of the 2020 draft. The fact that he isn’t specifically penciled in to one position on the defense because he offers so much and can be deployed in many ways, whether as a single high safety, in the box, covering tight ends ot running backs, or even playing at the line of scrimmage, he brings everything the Eagles like in a defensive player. Wallace may be the ultimate replacement for Malcolm Jenkins in the coming years.
The versatility and athleticism of the Eagles draft class has been talked about and written about ad nauseam by many. We here at the Blitz have touched on the draft class as well (https://thephillyblitz.wordpress.com/2020/05/06/speed-what-to-expect-from-the-2020-eagles-rookie-class/). 1st Round pick, Jalen Reagor brings speed and versatile ability as he can line up outside, in the slot and even in the backfield. He can also be very effective in space and downfield with jump balls and catching in traffic. 2nd round pick Jalen Hurts may be the face of the versatile movement for the Eagles. Once he was drafted, GM Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson talked about the ways Hurts can be used outside of just being a regular QB, specifically touching on how the Ravens used Lamar Jackson during his first season when Joe Flacco was the QB. The primary focus of this draft was to get faster and find versatile pieces and the front office did just that.
Looking at the free agent additions of Javon Hargrave, Jatavis Brown and Nickell Robey Coleman, the only player who isn’t as versatile as the others in terms of playing multiple positions is NRC. However, that specific knock on him is canceled out, in the fact that he is one of the better nickel corners in the league and he also brings a lot in how he can be used due to his speed and physical playstyle. Taking a look at Hargrave, he is one of the most intriguing additions to the defense due to both what he brings and what he can open up for defensive line mate, Malik Jackson, who can line up at defensive end if asked. Hargrave played nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers during his four year career. Pittsburgh who runs a 3-4 defensive scheme, were more predicated on speed and playmaking at the linebacker position. At nose tackle Hargrave was responsible for handling/sealing gaps. He put great explosiveness and short area quickness on display but was never really asked consistently to simply attack and get after the quarterback, which is what he will be doing in Jim Schwartz defense. However, when he was asked to while in Pittsburgh, he did so, and did so impressively.
Jatavis Brown has been described as a safety in a linebackers body due to his speed and athleticism. Brown can cover, tackle and contribute on special teams. He is a candidate to replace some of what Kamu Grugier-Hill brought to the defense over the past few seasons. Brown has had at least 79 tackles in each of the last 3 seasons and he even made the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie Team in 2016 after putting up 79 tackles, 3.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and six passes broken up in 12 games with seven starts. The thing that has done him in however is injuries, which is an area where the Eagles have made improvements as well. Specifically the staff, in hiring Tom Hunkele as the new director of sports medicine and director of strength training and performance Ted Rath as the new director of sports performance. Which continues the versatility trend, in that the many different positions within the medical staff and each member working on different aspects of the medical area and each working to keep the players safe and field the most competitive team.
The organization made changes to the coaching staff as well. Offensively, moving toward a more committee style approach rather than the traditional offensive coordinator mold of an NFL offensive staff. The team brought in former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator, Rich Scangarello under the job title of “Senior Offensive Assistant”, the organization also promoted Quarterbacks Coach, Press Taylor to passing game coordinator, the team also added former Fordham Head Coach and most recent Mississippi State passing game coordinator/QB coach, Andrew Breiner under the title of “passing game analyst”. Additionally, the organization also brought back former offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg as an offensive consultant. This bevy of changes helps to further the trend of versatility within the franchise. Each coach brings their own ideas/concepts which will be streamlined in an effort to put the best offense on display.
Defensively, the team made two main changes: adding former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, Marquand Manuel as defensive backs coach and adding former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator, Matt Burke as defensive line coach and run game coordinator. The main benefit with these two defensive coaches is that they are both former defensive coordinators. This is a positive because they have had a more in-depth look at NFL defenses and scheming against opposing offenses as a whole rather than just coaching a sole position. The two can lend a hand to Jim Schwartz if they notice a specific wrinkle or concept during an in game situation.
The word versatile is defined as able to adapt or be adapted to many different functions or activities. This offseason has been one of major change and a bit of a shift in philosophy for the Eagles organization. Gone are the bargain hunting moves and vet signings and in are the young, athletic, and versatile pieces. Almost every addition brings another ability than just solely what they’re primarily asked to do. The organization may have the most versatile roster in the league. Even on the coaching staff, whether its experience or multiple people bringing multiple perspectives together. Versatility is the name of the game for the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles.