After the Eagles signed James Bradberry, many fans were clamoring for Howie Roseman to upgrade at safety by trading for Chuck Clark or Jessie Bates. While it may feel like the safety position might be full of uncertainty, Howie Roseman has expressed that he feels confident in the group, and a huge part of that is due to Marcus Epps.
In 2020, Marcus Epps showed that he can be a solid backup safety, finishing the season with 47 tackles and 2 interceptions. During the 2021 season, fans were not expecting much from Epps with the signing of Anthony Harris and the return of Rodney McLeod. The truth however is that Epps was the best safety on the team in 2021, but he went unnoticed by many fans. While fans get carried away with interceptions and pass deflection, it is just as important for defensive backs to go unnoticed, which is usually a good thing. In Jonathan's double-high safety scheme last season, stats didn’t show how well Epps played, but the Eagles secondary rarely allowed any deep passes due to Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps patrolling the air. As a run stuffer however is where Marcus Epps really shined. In 505 defensive snaps last season, Epps only missed 4 of his 66 tackle attempts, and he was PFF's second highest run defending safety with an 88.9 grade against the run. Marcus Epps might not be your elite safety in the NFL, but he is more than deserving of being the stater in 2022 baring any big move, but the Eagles are right up against the cap, so Epps is essentially locked into a starting gig next year.
Marcus Epps Role in 2022
While Marcus Epps was very sound in coverage last season, Jonathan Gannon's defense will look entirely different with the revamped front seven, allowing Gannon to play a variety of different coverages. This will likely put more responsibility on Epps, as he will not sit back and watch the QB's eyes as a deep safety every play. However, with the new look Eagles defense, Epps's job got a whole lot easier. The whole purpose of the additions to the defense are to allow Gannon to only rush four and drop seven into coverage, which means more men covering less ground in coverage, a defensive coordinators dream.
With the departure of Rodney McLeod, Epps will likely be tasked to lineup against slot receivers and tight ends on some plays, but he should be more than capable of handling the matchup. Gannon may elect to keep Epps as the deep safety no matter what because he has more range and closing speed to make plays on the backend than Anthony Harris, but it's a safe bet that Epps will play a lot of different roles in coverage. Jonathan Gannon loves to disguise coverages and mix things up a lot, but he couldn't do this without the proper personnel last season. Now that he has the personnel he loves to play with, Epps could be that jack-of-all trades guy with his sure-handed tackling and range in coverage. In the play below, we see how Epps knows exactly where the ball is going by reading the quarterbacks eyes, then he lays the wood on the receiver causing an incompletion. If Epps can provide these kinds of plays with his knowledge of the game, the Eagles defense could be in for big things in 2022.