Moments before Marcus Epps heard his name called in the NFL Draft, the rookie defensive back was on the phone with Eagles safeties coach Tim Hauck.
In the sixth round of April’s draft, Epps said the Eagles assistant made the team’s interest in Epps known, despite not having any draft picks in the final two rounds.
Two minutes later, the Vikings called and he was off to Minnesota.
“It was kind of like getting a feel for what he was doing and how he was doing,” Hauck said Tuesday about the call. “I liked the things he did on film.”
Epps, now an Eagle, was waived by the Vikings last week to make room for them to sign Andrew Sendejo after the Eagles chose a compensatory pick over Sendejo’s services for the final seven games. In what essentially amounted to a waiver trade between the teams, the Eagles claimed Epps, and even gave him Sendejo’s old locker. Hauck and the Eagles’ relationship with the young safety finally paid off.
“The Eagles had shown some interest, so it’s good to be here with a team that wanted me in the first place,” Epps said Monday.
Epps, a four-year starter at Wyoming, made the Vikings’ 53-man roster out of training camp. He was primarily a special-teams player while being stuck behind All-Pro safety Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris on Minnesota’s depth chart.
“I learned a lot. You know Harrison and Anthony Harris, they were both really good and kind of took me under their wing,” Epps said. “They taught me everything they could. ... It was a good experience for me.”
Epps has played only 12 defensive snaps this season, but was productive in college, tallying nine career interceptions, 324 tackles, and five forced fumbles while playing safety and nickel corner for Wyoming.
“He did a lot of good things in college,” Hauck said. “He hasn’t played a lot of NFL ball ... so we’ll get a feel for him as things go on.”
One of the perks of getting Sendejo’s old locker: He has a familiar face next door in Craig James. The two defensive backs were on the Vikings roster during training camp. The Vikings waived James after training camp, and the Eagles brought him in during their cornerback crisis earlier this season.
James had his heroic pass breakup against the Green Bay Packers late in the Eagles’ 34-27 win, but has mostly settled in as a special-teams player now that starting cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are back healthy. James has quickly gone from the student to the teacher in the Eagles’ safety room, getting Epps up to speed.
“It’s helped a lot,” Epps said. “I talked to him over the past weekend and he’s told me a lot about the organization and what to expect, so it’s definitely made the transition a lot smoother.”
Epps is still in the early days of cramming the Eagles’ defensive playbook and learning the calls after getting to Philadelphia late Sunday, but he has noticed that some of the Eagles’ defensive schemes resemble what the Vikings do.
“There’s some similarities between the way they play their zones and match their zones,” Epps said. “But I haven’t really dove fully into it. There’s a lot of similarities for sure, so that makes it easier coming over and learning a new playbook midway through the season.”