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Can Reed Blankenship duplicate auspicious rookie season?


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Can Reed Blankenship duplicate auspicious rookie season?


Reed Blankenship was one of the 2022 Eagles' most surprising stories. Can be build on that in Year 2?

By Reuben Frank, Eagles Insider  Published June 6, 2023  Updated on June 6, 2023 at 11:41 am


This time last year, nobody had heard of Reed Blankenship. Nobody had seen him play. He was the longest of longshots. He had earned a grand total of $5,000 as a professional football player, the extent of his signing bonus with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie.

Today? Everything’s changed.

Blankenship is a starting safety on a team coming off a Super Bowl. He earned over $700,000 last year and will earn another $870,000 this year. Not quite Jalen Hurts money, but not a bad living for a guy who didn’t get drafted and wasn’t even a priority undrafted free agent.

Blankenship was so promising in the 4 ½ games he played in place of injured Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, it made it easier for the Eagles to let both C.J.G.J and Marcus Epps leave in free agency.

Everything’s changed. But one thing hasn’t.

Blankenship still has the mental approach of a young, unknown kid with everything to prove.

"Honestly, nothing’s really changed,” he said last week. "I love the game, I’m going to play it as long as my body allows me to. I don’t feel like I’ve arrived yet. I’m still staying humble, staying hungry, and that’s going to last throughout my career.”

Blankenship was one of the most surprising stories in an incredible 2022 Eagles season. He picked off Aaron Rodgers on his ninth career defensive snap – the first undrafted rookie ever to pick off Rodgers – and gave the Eagles a steady, physical, intelligent presence in the secondary until Gardner-Johnson got back.

"Make sure you’re ready at all costs,” he said. "Rent’s due every day, that’s what coach Sirianni talks about. No matter what position you are, what year you’re in. Someone could go down, your number could be called, you’ve got to be ready to go. 

"That’s why I treated every week as if I were starting and that goes back to the guys we have in our room. Asking questions and learning from them.”

Blankenship became the Eagles’ first undrafted defensive back to start four or more games since Brenard Wilson in 1979, and he brought a very simple philosophy with him from Middle Tennessee State, where he was a five-year starter.

"Just work hard,” he said. "You’ve got to love the game. It’s a business, but if you show everybody that you love the game and you go hard every day, you have that mentality, you’re going to make somebody (notice). That was my goal. I just wanted somebody to know who I was and that I truly love the game.”

This will be the second straight season the Eagles have turned over the safety spot. Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod were the starters in 2021 and Epps and Gardner-Johnson last year. This year, Blankenship is expected to start alongside Terrell Edmunds, although rookie Sydney Brown could find himself in the mix as well.

Blankenship said Epps and Gardner-Johnson were huge for him coming in as a rookie last year.

"It’s a business, at the end of the day, but those are two guys I looked up to,” he said. "Marcus Epps especially, me coming in as a rookie I didn’t really know a lot of guys, and he was my go-to. I kind of looked at him as my big brother and I asked him a lot of questions and that’s the type of vet I like to have in the room, you can ask a question regardless of who you are, he’s going to answer. 

"Same with C.J. They’re really good dudes and I had fun with them. That’s the most important thing. Have fun with the guys in the room.”

We don’t know much about Sean Desai’s defense, but Blankenship’s face lights up when he talks about how he’ll fit in.

"He talks about being palpable,” he said. "Wants people watching on TV to feel us and we want to be violent. That’s our top goal right now. That’s how you play football. It’s a violent sport. 

"You run and hit. That’s what I’ve been doing since I was little.”


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