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Marcus Epps' Development Important to What will be Rebuilt Secondary

After being claimed off waivers from the Vikings in 2019, the safety has made the most of his playing and practice time and could be on the verge of a larger role

The backline of the Eagles' defense has been patrolled by some incredibly talented safeties through the decades, players such as Brian Dawkins, Michael Lewis, Quintin Mikell, Malcolm Jenkins, and Rodney McLeod.

Now comes the time for the Eagles to add a name or two to those illustrious defensive backs above. With last season’s starters, McLeod and Anthony Harris, slated to hit the open market, it’s fair to assume neither are back in midnight green.

This off-season, filling both safety positions with two starters will be no easy task. But with Philadelphia’s ample cap space and surplus of draft picks, the team is bound to add talent to the position group. 

With many questions that need to be answered, there is one player easy to overlook - Marcus Epps.

Eight games into his rookie season, the Minnesota Vikings put Epps on waivers, and the Eagles quickly claimed the sixth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Since then, he has seen his role gradually increase over time despite having the likes of Jenkins, McLeod, Harris, and former starter Jalen Mills seeing a majority of the snaps at safety.

Now, Epps and 2020 fourth-round pick K’Von Wallace are the only two safeties under contract for Philadelphia. Those circumstances are very likely to change in the upcoming months with free agency and the draft, but if the Eagles pay a high-priced free agent like Marcus Williams or Marcus Maye, that may loosen up the team’s willingness to spend a premium pick on the position, which could pave the way for Epps to become a starter for the Eagles.

Epps has taken on that third safety role for the Eagles that has become a necessity in this passing era of football. After seeing his snaps increase over 100 every season in Philadelphia to date, perhaps the organization sees something more in the young defensive back.

After re-watching Epps’s 2021 season, one aspect of his game noticeably stood out. He rarely missed tackles.

Pro Football Focus charted Epps at a 6.8% missed tackle rate, which is the best by an Eagles safety with a minimum of playing 500 snaps since Brian Dawkins 8.3% rate in 2008. 

Epps has also shown enough to hang your hat on in his coverage ability. In the last two seasons combined, the safety has been on the field for a total of 559 coverage snaps allowing 33 receptions for 340 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and six pass break-ups.

What stood out from Epps’ play last season, and the vast talking point when discussing why he deserves more playing time, was his incredible performance on run defense.

PFF charted Epps as the second-highest graded safety in the NFL against the run (88.9, 1.3 points behind No. 1 Jimmie Ward). That dominance passed the eye test as well. 

Jonathan Gannon requires his safeties to play downhill versus the run, and Epps had a seamless transition to his first-year defensive coordinator’s assignment. 

Philadelphia should not overlook this type of production from Epps. Instead, the organization that struggles to mold young defensive backs into contributing starters should celebrate the safety's development to date.

No one is crowning Epps a starter just yet, but his current trajectory can’t be ignored, and it suggests the Eagles have a player to build upon. 

With the team expected to invest heavily into one safety, whether free agency or the draft, the team may be forced to look for a cheaper alternative for the counterpart.

Epps would fit the bill perfectly with a cap number of $965,000 and the likelihood of continuing to improve his overall game with more playing time.

The Eagles' safety position figures to look much different in 2022, but Epps will be one player that will still lend some familiarity.

Conor Myles covers the Philadelphia Eagles for’s Eagle Maven and co-hosts the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast on Bleav Podcast Network. Reach Conor at or Twitter: @ConorMylesSI

Ed Kracz is the publisher of’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at or and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.