Epps wanted a chance, gets one with the Eagles.
All Marcus Epps ever wanted was a chance.
He got one at Wyoming, where he began his collegiate career as a walk-on and left as a three-year starter/captain.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Vikings, he was still waiting for one when the Eagles claimed him off of waivers on November 7 after logging just 12 defensive snaps in the first eight games with Minnesota.
As the Birds’ third safety, Epps has played 49 snaps over the past four weeks when defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz opts to utilize a dime defense with six D-backs (three cornerbacks and three safeties).
“It’s definitely been a great opportunity for me — coming here (and) getting some meaningful snaps on defense,” said Epps after Friday’s practice at the NovaCare Complex.
“I think, for the most part, I’ve done a pretty solid job. I’ve been in good position. All I’m trying to do is take care of my job and make plays when they come.”
Schwartz called on Epps for 16 defensive plays against the Seahawks in his second week with the Eagles.
“We have confidence in Marcus,” said Schwartz after the Seattle game. “We got him up in the swing of things and he was able to roam that middle of the field.”
Schwartz and the Eagles have essentially been looking for a third safety for two years.
In 2018, they tried veteran Corey Graham and, when Graham got hurt, then-rookie Avonte Maddox moved into that role. Earlier this season, Andrew Sendejo and Rudy Ford had cracks at the job. There were also times when Schwartz went with four cornerbacks alongside starting safeties Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins in the dime package.
The Eagles essentially traded Sendejo for the 6-foot, 197-pound Epps. Philly waived Sendejo, who the Vikings signed after releasing Epps, and the Birds grabbed Epps.
Being claimed off of waivers didn’t surprise the 23-year-old Epps because the Eagles had shown interest in him heading into the draft. His transition from Minnesota to the Eagles has been fairly smooth, in part because of the tutelage of veterans McLeod and Jenkins. That he arrived during the bye week also helped by giving him more time to familiarize himself to Schwartz’s system.
“The biggest thing to me is I try to improve every day, every week,” Epps said. “I just feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job of that.”
So does McLeod.
“He’s been a guy who comes to work every day, knows his assignment, works hard, shows very good range out of the post,” McLeod said. “(He’s) a good tackler, too. Those are the things I’ve seen from him — steady growth and just really anything we ask him to do, he’s there. He’s available and he’s making the most of his opportunity so far.”
If Epps continues to perform well, there’s a chance he could fill a larger role in the coming years, since Jenkins is 32 years old and McLeod 29.
Epps didn’t want to broach that possibility heading into Sunday’s first-place showdown with the Cowboys at the Linc.
“Um, I’m just focused on the here and now,” Epps said. “We have a huge opportunity in front of us this weekend. I’m not really looking past that, past the things I have to do in order to help this team. I try not to worry about things that are out of my control.”
Epps, who also plays special teams, is looking forward to playing in his first Eagles-Cowboys game.
“It doesn’t get any better than this — two rivals in basically a playoff game, playing for the division,” Epps said. “There’s no better atmosphere than that. And we have them at home, so I expect it to be an electric atmosphere. And it’s going to be a fun one.”
Especially for a former walk-on from Wyoming.
Tom Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org; @TomMoorePhilly