Before the start of the Eagles’ padded practice, Will Parks told reporters they’d see him “everywhere” once the sessions opened to the media.
The Eagles’ defensive back was signed this offseason after spending four seasons with the Denver Broncos because of his ability to play multiple positions across the defensive secondary, and he went on to do just that during training camp.
“I’m everywhere,” Parks said. “Dime, corner, both safeties. I’m everywhere. I’m all over the field, and that’s what I take pride in. I’ve lined up everywhere on the field. ... That just speaks to the way they expect my role to be here. I’ll probably have a lot on my plate, and I’m a guy that likes challenges.”
The Eagles gave the 26-year-old Germantown High School graduate plenty to take pride in, lining him up at nickel cornerback, safety, and even in a pseudo-linebacker role in the team’s dime formation. But now they’ll need a backup plan, with Parks expected to miss “multiple weeks” with a lower-body injury. According to an NFL Network report, Parks is dealing with a hamstring injury.
In recent seasons, Eagles have often utilized sub packages over their base defense, employing defensive backs over linebackers in most situations, particularly passing downs.
This season, the team figured to use more sub formations than ever given the lack of investment and experience at the linebacker position. Nate Gerry is the leader of the group with 15 starts to his name. His fellow starters in training camp have been Duke Riley and T.J. Edwards, who have played sparingly in the Eagles defense.
Without Parks in the fold, the depth and experience of the linebackers will be tested early.
“Obviously losing Will for a bit, it’s tough,” Gerry said. “He’s a very versatile player for us. He did play a lot of different roles, I don’t really fully know what that’s going to entail for us. I don’t know if we’re going to go a little bit more base with three-linebacker, and two-linebacker sets, and what not.”
The Eagles may have expected to fix the thin linebacking corps by addressing the position in the draft. They took Davion Taylor in the third round, and Shaun Bradley in the sixth round of the 2020 draft. But the coronavirus-altered offseason robbed the rookies of the necessary practice reps to get up to speed.
Now, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz reiterated multiple times that the learning curve is steeper than usual for rookie linebackers and safeties considering the lack of rookie minicamp, OTAs, and preseason games.
Still, Schwartz praised Bradley and Taylor, who could be seeing the field sooner than expected depending on how the depth chart shakes out.
“[Bradley] is going to be an outstanding young player for us, him and Davion,” Schwartz said. “[They’re] really good additions for our team there, guys that can run, guys that have some size. We’re really lucky to have both of those guys.”
Riley, currently ahead of Bradley and Taylor on the depth chart, as a starting linebacker, pointed out the rookies aren’t the only ones suffering from the canceled preseason games.
“Those preseason games, they give you a wake-up call,” Riley said. “‘Oh, I need to work on this. I need to get better at this.’ It’s a lot of situations for a lot of rookies, not just those guys. I think they’re quick learners, those guys. They come in every day ready to work, and they’re great listeners. They’re soaking up everything, and they’re constantly getting better each and every day. I think it’s going to be around the league as a whole that it’ll be a problem. Not a problem, but the tempo from practice to a real game is a lot different.”