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How the Eagles’ Red Blankenship finally pulled off defensive snaps

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It was just a couple of shots but that meant the world to Red Blankenship.

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An undesigned safety Middle Tennessee made the Eagles roster of 53 players who made it out of training camp but were either inactive or relegated to special teams for the first nine games of the season.

Until Sunday against the Colts, when he finally got into defense.

It was a dream come true,” Blankenship said. “Obviously, I had a little bit of nervousness. But I was sure of what I was doing. It was like playing football again as if I were a kid. You enjoy it on a bigger level and it was a very nice experience. It will last a lifetime.”

Prior to Sunday, K’Von Wallace, a former fourth-round draft pick, was the Eagles’ extra defensive back in their dime package, playing only a handful of snaps in the role. But Blankenship finally got the better of him last week. Blankenship only had two points defense, but it was a big first step for his five previous years in college.

Blankenship, 23, earned those shots the same way he earned a spot on the roster: hard work and consistency.

“Reed shows up every day, and he goes to work,” said rookie Marcus Epps. “Does all the right things. He’s attentive in the conference rooms, he listens to the coaching and he trains hard. So he’s been doing a good job.”

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

In the NFL, he was inactive for six of the first seven games of the season. He has played 53 special teams in snaps while active.

“You never know when your number will be called,” Blankenship said. “Being patient is a very important thing in this league. You don’t need to overthink things. You just have to be consistent. Sooner or later your name will be called. It’s a long season. It’s about consistency and staying focused. Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it With it, he will eat you alive.”

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

But there was no doubt that Blakenship earned its spot on the list. All that polish from his college life showed up every day this summer, and eventually the Eagles decided to keep him around, even over veterans like Anthony Harris and Jackieski Tart.

“It’s unbelievable,” Eagles manager Howie Roseman said in September. “Reed is one of those guys, he started the last guy in that group, and every day we rate practice, we evaluate everything he did, and he kept showing up. He had a feel.”

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

Well, he said, his body is very cool. There isn’t a lot of wear and tear after picking up a handful of special teams. But Blankenship has been getting a lot of work managing the scouting team during practice, helping the Eagles prepare each week.

Although he’s not like he’s in the Eagles’ defensive scheme on a scouting team, Blankenship said his style doesn’t change. And those are still valuable reps against one of the NFL’s best offenses. It is likely that he showed his talent to the coaches on those courses.

“I’m going to be up against some of the best players,” Blankenship said. “Jalen, DeVonta, AJ and all of them. I love him. I see live action in the scouting team and I want to help them get good looks. If they don’t get good looks, they can’t score on Sunday.”

The players he mostly counts on are Epps and Andre Cacchery, Blankenship said, which makes sense. Both Epps and Chachere are guys who’ve had to fight to get their all in the NFL.

Epps even sees a little bit of himself in Blankenship. Epps was once a sixth-round pick who worked his way up from special teams to rotating safety and is now a full-time fourth-year starter.

For now, he’s just happy getting some defensive picks.

It looks like more are coming.

“We changed that spin a little bit and we wanted to see it [Blankenship] said Jonathan Gannon, Eagles defensive coordinator. “And we had a whole dime package, but as the game got going, those calls weren’t used. I look forward to seeing him play more and more for us.”

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