How the Eagles’ Reed Blankenship finally got defensive snaps

It was only two snaps, but it meant the world to Reed Blankenship.

The undrafted safety from Middle Tennessee made the Eagles’ 53-man roster coming out of training camp but had either been inactive or relegated to special teams duty through the first nine games of the season.

Until Sunday against the Colts, when he finally entered the defense.

“It was cool. It was a dream come true,” Blankenship said. “Obviously I had a little bit of nervousness. But I was confident in what I was doing. It was like playing football again, like when I was a kid. You enjoy it on a bigger level and it was a very big experience. It’s going to last a lifetime.”

Before Sunday, former fourth-round pick K’Von Wallace had been the Eagles’ extra defensive back in their dime package, playing some snaps in that role. But Blankenship finally overtook him last week. Blankenship only got two defensive snaps, but it was a big first step for the former five-year college starter.

Blankenship, 23, earned those snaps the same way he earned his roster spot: Hard work and consistency.

“Reed just shows up every day, shows up to work,” starter Marcus Epps said. “Doing all the right things. He’s paying attention in the meeting rooms, he’s listening to coaching and he’s practicing hard. So he’s done a good job.”

As an undrafted rookie, Blankenship knew he had to earn everything in the NFL. But that doesn’t mean this season hasn’t been a little strange for him. At Middle Tennessee, he was a rare five-year starter and had an incredible 419 tackles in his college career.

In the NFL, he was inactive in six of the first seven games of the season. And he has played 53 special teams snaps when he has been active.

“You just never know when your number is going to be called,” Blankenship said. “Staying patient is a very important thing in this league. You don’t have to overthink things. You just have to be consistent. Your name will be called sooner or later. It’s a long season. It’s about being consistent and keeping focus. And have fun with it. If you don’t have fun with it, it’s going to eat you alive.”

While he had a great college career, Blankenship was something of an afterthought for many coming into training camp. His rookie contract included only $55,000 guaranteed and only a $5,000 signing bonus. In fact, 10 players in the Eagles’ 12-man undrafted class received more guaranteed money and a larger signing bonus than Blankenship.

But there was no doubt that Blakenship earned his place on the list. All the polish of his college career showed up every day this summer, and in the end the Eagles decided to keep him, even over veterans like Anthony Harris and Jaquiski Tartt.

“It’s unbelievable,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said in September. “Reed is one of those guys, he started the last man in that group and every day we evaluate practice, we evaluate everything he did, and he continued to show up. He had a feeling.”

So how has Blankenship handled his rookie season, mostly sitting on the bench?

Well, his body feels pretty great, he said. Not much wear after a handful of special teams snaps. But Blankenship has gotten plenty of work running scout teams during practice, helping the Eagles’ offense prepare each week.

While it’s not like he’s in the Eagles’ scout team defensive scheme, Blankenship said his technique isn’t changing. And those are still valuable reps against one of the NFL’s best offenses. He probably showed his talent to coaches in these sessions.

“I’m going against some of the best guys,” Blankenship said. “Jalen, DeVonta, AJ and all of them. I love it. I get to see live action on the scout team and I want to help them look good. If they don’t look good, they don’t want to be in able to score on Sunday.”

Blankenship said the players he leans on the most are Epps and Andre Chachere, which makes sense. Both Epps and Chachere are guys who had to fight to get everything they have in the NFL.

Epps even sees a bit of himself in Blankenship. Epps was once a sixth-round pick who worked his way up from special teams to rotational safety and is now a full-time starter in Year 4. Maybe one day Blankenship’s career will take a similar path.

For now, he’s just happy to get some snaps on defense.

And it sounds like there’s more to come.

“We changed that rotation a little bit and wanted to see that [Blankenship] get into some plays,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “And we had a whole dime pack up, but when the game started, those calls weren’t used. I am looking forward to seeing him play more and more for us.”

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