Eagles rookie safety Ed Reynolds will miss most of the team’s OTAs this spring because of a quirky NCAA rule preventing drafted prospects from attending NFL camps before their school’s graduation ceremony.
But when he finally gets onto the practice field, Reynolds may have a leg up on his rookie counterparts in the defensive backfield.
Reynolds was a key part of the Stanford defense that slowed down Oregon’s record-smashing offenses in critical Pac-12 games the past two seasons, including Chip Kelly’s last year in Eugene.
The Ducks, who were known for scoring in the 40s, 50s and sometimes more in Kelly’s five seasons there (one as offensive coordinator, four as head coach) fell 17-14 in overtime to Stanford at home in 2012, then fell 26-20 last year to have their national title hopes spoiled again by the Cardinal.
Reynolds and his teammates took extra pride in holding Oregon’s nationally renowned hurry-up offense in check for two straight years.
“I think for us it was just, our coaching staff at Stanford, we took pride in our week of preparation,” said Reynolds, who is eligible to attend the team’s three-day rookie camp, which starts Friday. “We tried to mimic the tempo as best we could. We had two or three scout offenses running at a time. We tried to mimic the tempo of how they ran their offense.
“Also, not trying to out-scheme Oregon, we just wanted to play our defense and play it fast. The main thing with Oregon, you have to tackle on defense. One missed tackle or two missed tackles, it’s going to the house.”
Reynolds, picked in the fifth round, is staring up at Malcolm Jenkins, Earl Wolff, Nate Allen and probably free-agent signing Chris Maragos on the depth chart. The Eagles also bring back Keelan Johnson, who spent most of last year on the practice squad, and signed rookie free agent safety Daytawion Lowe out of Oklahoma State.
To make the 53-man roster, Reynolds will have to excel on special teams and grasp the playbook, but he believes his Stanford pedigree and past success against Kelly’s scheme in college will help prepare him for the next level.
His big takeaway from those Oregon clashes: sticking to fundamentals.
“For us, I think what a lot of people saw the past two years was guys getting lined up playing simple defense, but always playing hard,” he said, “always being aligned and making the tackles that need to be made. So a six-yard gain doesn’t turn into an 87-yard touchdown.”
After drafting Reynolds, whose father played linebacker for 10 years in the NFL, Kelly remarked about the Stanford product’s intellect and performance within a “complicated scheme.”
“He did it all for him,” Kelly said. “Sometimes it's tough when you're evaluating some guys on film, because you see their athletic ability but you're not sure how it's going to translate when you see people that run similar schemes to what are run at this level. And what Stanford does, it helps in your evaluation because you're not guessing or projecting. You say, ‘Here's evidence that he's done it.”