Eagles bargain-hunt for safety and linebacker hybrid products

Eagles bargain-hunt for safety and linebacker hybrid products

Eagles

Eagles bargain-hunt for safety and linebacker hybrid products

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There’s got to be a “morning after” eventually with this coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not happening any time real soon. Sports entertainment industries have been temporarily crippled along with the rest of the service economy and manufacturing. Like a lot of folks with life savings tied up in equities, I got hammered by a margin call and had to cash out. So it goes. Would be nice if you knew for sure that everything is going to bounce back to the economic winning streak we were riding, and exactly when. But that kind of prescience is not available to me.

On a side note, Eagles Eye was ranked by a certain review service as the 11th most popular Eagles football blog for the past year. That’s up from 12th the year before. We’ve been as high as 7th and as low as 18th in our 13-year history. What it means is we are hanging around despite audience-draining platform changes and often challenging comment systems. That’s a tribute to you, our reader.

Keeping you up to speed on the latest new Eagles, agreements were made over the past few days to sign defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, linebacker Jatavis Brown, and safety Will Parks (along with the agreement to acquire cornerback Darius Slay via trade).

In addition, they retained quarterback Nate Sudfeld, a solid move, and they have lost some depth along the offensive line with Halapoulivaati Vaitai agreeing to terms with Detroit in free agency. Jason Peters is still determining his best fit as his next step and running back Jordan Howard has landed in Miami.

On Saturday afternoon, the Eagles continued to fortify the defense with the addition of safety Will Parks, who agreed to terms on a one-year deal to play for his hometown team.

The 6-1, 194-pound Parks was an All-Southeastern Pennsylvania selection at Germantown High School before going to the University of Arizona, where he was a team captain and an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection.

A sixth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2016, Parks is only 25 years old. He played 62 games (15 starts) and registered 134 tackles, four interceptions, 13 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and 15 special teams tackles in his first four NFL seasons. Following the 2018 season, Parks was named the Broncos’ most improved player by Pro Football Focus and called “the model for the modern dime linebacker.” This past year, Parks had 31 tackles in 14 games (seven starts) with a sack, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble. Denver utilized Parks as a safety, dime linebacker, and nickel corner in the first year with Vic Fangio as the head coach in 2019.

“Will is versatile,” Fangio said of Parks during the season. “He can play safety as you’ve seen him do some for us. He can play the dime position, which is very similar to the nickel position. He does like playing football and he’s a good guy to have on your team. I enjoy being around him and I think everybody does.”

Another 1-year deal goes to linebacker Jatavis Brown.

Selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Brown started 23 games for the Chargers in four seasons and was given an overall grade of 80.8 by Pro Football Focus after his first season, second highest among all rookie linebackers behind only Atlanta’s Deion Jones (83.0). The Pro Football Writers Association named Brown to its All-Rookie Team.

The 5-11, 221-pounder had a limited role for the Chargers late in the 2019 season, but the Eagles see him as an undersized, explosive linebacker and good athlete who is best in space. He can play in base and sub packages. He improves the defensive speed at linebacker and, in a way, is similar in skill set to former Eagle Kamu Grugier-Hill, who reportedly signed as an unrestricted free agent with Miami, and current Eagle Duke Riley.

Brown will also compete at special teams (18 career special teams tackles, seven last season) and battle for playing time at a linebacker position that currently includes Riley, Nathan Gerry, and T.J. Edwards.

As recently as the 2018 season, Brown was a huge part of the Chargers’ defense under coordinator Gus Bradley, who joined Los Angeles a season earlier.

“I think another year in a system you’re seeing him play faster,” Bradley said. “… He’s always been fast, but the ability to recognize and react quicker than he has in the past, I think that’s really been evident for him.”

In 2019, though, Brown missed part of Training Camp recovering from an ankle injury that kept him out of the postseason the year before, and he was relegated mostly to special teams play in the 13 games, with one start, in which he participated.

Said Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn of Brown in 2018: “He has versatility. He plays MIKE (middle), he plays WILL (weak side). He comes in and plays nickel; he plays dime. He knows the defense very well and we were very fortunate to have someone like him on our team when Denzel (Perryman) went down, and we could just plug a guy in.”

If lucky, the Birds could end up with a good investment bargain in either Parks or Brown. But take it from me, such investments are never to be taken for granted.

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