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Despite having very little experience playing safety in the NFL, Rudy Ford has the potential to become the Philadelphia Eagles’ next Chris Maragos.
The Philadelphia Eagles made two player-for-player trades during the preseason.

The first initially seemed the most promising; flipping undrafted Penn State offensive tackle (and Philly native) Ryan Bates to the Buffalo Bills for under-achieving, yet encouraging edge rusher Eli Harold after Week 1.

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While some questioned this move initially, as Bates was clearly talented enough to make the Bills’ roster and can reliably serve as a reserve at all five offensive line positions, it seemed more promising than the team’s second move – flipping longshot defensive tackle Bruce Hector to the Arizona Cardinals for 2017 sixth-round safety Rudy Ford.

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With even less time to make the roster and no clear player he was added to replace – Harold’s addition coincided with Joe Ostman‘s torn ACL – Ford looked like one of Howie Roseman‘s typical camp bodies – a player who would stick around for a month or so, collect a little money, and move on to a new opportunity elsewhere.

Clearly, that didn’t happen.

Fast forward to the Eagles’ initial 53 man roster, and it was Ford’s name, not Harold’s, filling up a spot on a depth chart.

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In case you were wondering, Hector didn’t make the Cardinals’ initial 53 man depth chart, and is fittingly back in Philadelphia for his third stint on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

But Ford isn’t your typical bottom-of-the-roster safety brought to town just in case Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins, Andrew Sendejo, and Johnathan Cyprien catch the injury bug like Tre Sullivan before him. No, Ford is here for one reason, and one reason alone: To play special teams.

Much like Chris Maragos before him, the Eagles specifically targeted Ford for his ability to fly down the field with reckless abandon and tackle unsuspecting return men – and if anything, Ford is like Maragos on steroids.
While Ford had kind of an up-and-down college career, as he began his four-year tenure at Auburn as a running back, and only recorded 280 total tackles, five interceptions, and a pair of sacks over 39 games at safety, the 6-foot tall, 204 pound back burst up draft board by running a scorching 4.34 40 yard dash at his pro day.

That.Is.Fast.

So fast, in fact, that the Cardinals felt confident enough in Ford as an athlete to select him 208th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft despite being a clear work-in-progress on the defensive side of the ball.

And in a way, Ford came as advertised.

Despite only starting one game over his first two seasons in the desert, recording nine total tackles in 2018 and none in 2017, Ford did most of his damage on special teams – recording 169 snaps in 2017 and career-high 286 in 2018.

Granted, that may not seem like a lot, but they’re comparable to Maragos’ first two years in the league for the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Ford’s special teams prowess also kept him on the 46-man game-day active roster for 23 of a possible 32 games, nine more than Maragos was active for over his first two seasons.

As we’ve seen over the last decade, the Eagles are very willing to keep players who are predominantly special teamers with the hopes of developing their talents at their ‘natural’ positions like Kamu Grugier-Hill, Trey Burton, Mack Hollins, and yes, Chris Maragos.

While Maragos was never able to become even a rotational safety over his four-season run in Philly – and as we all saw, the team tried to make it so – maybe Ford and his supreme athletic gifts can join KGH, Burton, and (God willing) Hollins as a serious player down the line, and potentially earn defensive snaps as an actual safety.

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But until that day comes, if it comes at all, at least the Philadelphia Eagles will once again have a dynamic special teams ace to bolster Dave Fipp‘s unit for years to come – only this season’s model is harder, better, faster, and stronger.