Phil Sheridan: Can NFL discard David Sims solve Eagles woes at safety?

Posted: September 04, 2012

The Eagles haven't quite resorted to picking through garbage or shopping at Sam's Club to find competent help at safeties. There was a time, though, when either ploy might have netted them David Sims, the safety they obtained in an 11th-hour trade with the Cleveland Browns on Friday night.

It will be a great story if Sims makes it in the NFL after a journey that included jobs collecting garbage for Waste Management and filling the shelves at a Florida Sam's Club. Here's a guy who was snubbed by colleges as he came out of high school and then went undrafted by the NFL when he finished college - a guy who has been released either two or three times, depending on how you count what happened Friday.

But the real story, at least for Eagles fans, is how a franchise with a pretty remarkable tradition at the safety position could become so barren at the position. Some way, somehow, the team of Bill Bradley, Randy Logan, Wes Hopkins, Andre Waters, Mike Zordich and Brian Dawkins became the team of Jarrad Page, Kurt Coleman, Sean Jones, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Nate Allen, Macho Harris and Quintin Demps.

There's no telling which of those groups Sims might wind up in. Maybe neither. Maybe he'll be gone in a week or two, maybe he'll be a nice special-teams player who never quite gets on the field on defense. Maybe he'll get an opportunity and flame out the way Page did last year. Maybe he'll be another Waters - an undrafted guy who made the roster as a special-teamer and was driven enough to become a fearsome starting safety.

That part will be up to Sims, who has shown plenty of drive just to make it this far.

He was a well-regarded running back in high school, but a knee injury contributed to his being overlooked by major colleges. After feeling sorry for himself for a while, he decided to go out and get a real job - well, someone decided it was time to find a job.

"I wasn't doing much," Sims said Monday. "My mom was like, 'You need to get a job.' So I went out searching. You have to have money in your pocket. You can't be a bum."

Sims worked on a truck, picking up garbage and yard waste. He got another job working at Sam's Club. At one point, he was folding laundry at the University of Florida, the school he expected to be playing for.

It didn't take long to decide football was worth another serious shot.

"It was humbling," Sims said. "I didn't want to be doing that for the rest of my life. I think about it every day, because I'm very thankful to be in the position I am now."

After stints at Butte Community College in Oroville, Calif., and Iowa State, the 5-foot-9 Sims went undrafted last year. He made it to the final cut last summer with the New York Giants. He was on Tampa Bay's roster briefly and was released. After being signed to Cleveland's practice squad and having a strong training camp, he believed he'd landed a job at last.

About 1 p.m. Friday, the phone rang. He had been released.

"For eight, nine hours, I was just stunned," Sims said.

He was even more stunned when the Browns called back on Friday night and told him he'd just been traded to the Eagles.

Once again, safety is an issue for this team. O.J. Atogwe, the veteran picked up in the offseason to provide some experience, was never healthy enough to compete for a job. Allen and Coleman are the starters. Jarrett is one backup.

Time will tell if their struggles last year were a major cause or mere symptom of the overall defensive problems. Over the weekend, GM Howie Roseman said safety had become a position of scarcity all around the NFL, not just in Philadelphia.

After years of teams devaluing the position - in the draft and especially at contract time - young players are more interested in the greater glory, bigger paychecks and longer careers at cornerback. That's swell - until Buffalo's Fred Jackson is running past Page, or Jarrett is being left alone to cover Larry Fitzgerald.

Safeties, as the name of the position suggests, are the guys who make the stop when all else fails. Last year, all else failed for the Eagles way too often. The safeties weren't close to being able to handle it. A year later, here the Eagles are again. They have added defensive linemen and linebackers and cornerbacks. And they are looking, still looking, for safeties.

"We're out there," Sims said, "guys like me who are undrafted and nobody gives us a chance. We're under your nose."

Sims will either be a great story, an underdog swooping in to take a job, or he'll be just another disappointing chapter in a long, long tale of woe.


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com. Folloow @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan

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