Eagles safety Will Parks is putting in the work to have it all.
The No. 1 pass defense. The No. 1 overall defense. A Hall of Fame career.
To bring the Super Bowl Trophy to North Philadelphia.
“I am not here for gimmicks. I am not here to kid,” Parks said. “I am here to help my team win and also create a legacy. That is my mindset.”
It was also that mindset that caused the four-year veteran to leave the Denver Broncos this offseason to sign with his hometown Eagles. A Philadelphia native that went to Germantown High School, lived in North Philadelphia and was raised in Olney, Parks credits his background as one of the main driving factors in the hard work he has put into his career so far.
“It has been a tremendous asset to my life…That is my roots. That is what has groomed me so far in my life,” Parks said. “I’ve always been excited throughout my journey, even though the downs, I’ve always been excited to revert back to where I came from in difficult situations and to always help me get over those humps that most people can’t get over. Coming from this city, I think it is easily attainable when you grow up in an environment like this, you are able to overcome a whole lot more than the average human being. I would definitely say it’s been a vital part of my life.”
A sixth-round pick out of Arizona in 2016, Parks started 15 of the 62 games he played in Denver, totaling 149 tackles, four interceptions, 13 pass deflections and one sack in four seasons. Parks had plenty of interest from other teams in the league, but his projected fit in Philadelphia and how the Eagles plan to use him in their defense were the driving factors in his decision to sign.
“Throughout the first couple days of free agency, I was talking to like 10-12 teams, then it kind of went down to 3-4, and the Eagles had always been in contact with us the whole time. Then looking deeper into the situation, and what is going on with the franchise, how they could use me, how they looked forward to using my skillsets, it was definitely a no-brainer. Especially to come back home and create an opportunity for yourself,” Parks said. “I think I came to the best situation. I came to a winning team, I came to an organization that prides itself in winning, drives their players to work hard and to doing everything to contribute to W’s and to winning Super Bowls. The standard here is Super Bowl. I want to play with the best, I want to compete against the best and hopefully do everything I can to help this team win. That is my ultimate end goal and that is why I chose to come home.”
How the Eagles use Parks will be interesting to see.
A main focus of the team this offseason has been to add positionless players to the secondary. They moved Jalen Mills from cornerback to safety, drafted the versatile K’Von Wallace out of Clemson and added Parks, who played both safety and cornerback in Denver. Last season, Parks spent 211 snaps in nickel coverage.
“I lined up in man coverage probably 80% of the time, that is one of my strong suits, being able to cover and run with guys. It isn’t just tight ends. I played nickel the last half of the season,” Parks said. “For a guy my size, being able to move like a corner, a nickel, twist your hips, being able to have feet as well as hands, being able to dissect plays faster than normal, that has been helpful as well. I feel like I can continue to do that.”
With Rodney McLeod set to start at one safety spot, and Parks not in the rotation at cornerback, chances are he will be competing with Mills and Wallace for playing time at the spot left open by the departure of Malcolm Jenkins. Two of the three will likely be getting significant playing time, while one will be the odd man out.
If that is the case, Parks has been getting tutored by perhaps the best man possible to help him win the job — Jenkins.
Parks has spent some time working out with Jenkins not only this offseason, but over the last two years. They met through a mutual trainer, and since then, the two have remained close, with Jenkins texting Parks about not only football, but some of the social justice issues Jenkins has worked on recently.
“Being around Malcolm and him teaching me football 101, as far as the Eagles’ defense, I feel like I can come in and play my game. It is easier when you have a guy who played the position that you look forward to playing, and for him to give everything that he had about it. It was one training session when we didn’t do nothing but talk for an hour about it,” Parks said. “I think I can come in and definitely take over and do a lot of things he has done. That is the exciting thing, to have a guy like that to teach you so many things about a defense he has been in the last four years. A lot of guys don’t do that. There are a lot of sneaky dudes in this league.
There is no doubt the time spent with Jenkins is valuable. With his first offseason with the Eagles being like any other in the past due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Parks has yet to take a single rep with his new team on the field. That hasn’t stopped Parks from getting to know his new teammates, however, as he has worked out with guys like Darius Slay and Cre’Von LeBlanc at points during the offseason.
“I love to be around the guys I’m sharing the backfield with. That creates chemistry, it creates trust, it creates togetherness. It creates a stronghold. You can’t mess with us,” Parks said. “A lot of guys are putting the work in the backend with us. When you have a group of guys that are coming together for one common goal, and that is to be No. 1 the pass defense, No. 1 defense in all, stopping the long ball, keeping plays in front of us, that is what exactly what we look forward to doing.”
For Parks, this season represents perhaps his best chance so far to start carving out his space in the NFL as what he has been working to be — one of the best safeties in the league. There will be competition, but the Eagles made Parks a priority free agent this offseason, and clearly value what they believe he can bring to the defense. It would be surprising if Parks, who played 53% or less of the snaps in Denver’s defense in three of his four seasons, didn’t see a career high in snaps next season.
Parks has been putting in the work this offseason to make sure he takes advantage of the opportunity in front of him, and reaches the high goals he has set for himself.
“When you have a mindset like that, you can’t do nothing but help the team. The ultimate end goal is to help the team win games. I think it is about time we bring another one of them Lombardis back to the city. I wouldn’t want to be here if that wasn’t my goal. I wouldn’t want this team to want me if that wasn’t my goal,” Parks said. “That is my mindset, that is my mentality, that is how I am coming in. I am all for the hard work. Bad days are going to come, but them good days outweigh the bad, and that's all I can worry about.”