There was a time when Jaquiski Tartt looked like the final piece of the Eagles defensive puzzle.
Before the Eagles signed him on June 18, they had already added to the defensive line by drafting Jordan Davis, signed linebackers Haason Reddick and Kyzir White in free agency, and added James Bradberry at cornerback.
Security was the only level of protection that had not yet been addressed.
Then came Tartt, who is good friends with Bradberry after the two played together at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., before both became second-round draft picks.
Tartt went 42nd overall to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2015 draft. Bradberry went 62nd overall in 2016 to the Carolina Panthers.
Now, though, Tartt appears to be on the roster bubble as Eagles decision makers huddle at the NovaCare Complex, discussing how to shape their 53-man roster. They have until 4pm on Tuesday to put it up.
Tartt’s transition from seven years in the Bay Area with the Niners hasn’t gone as smoothly as he and the decision makers probably would have liked.
He is, however, a known commodity, a physical player at 6-1, 215 who had 66 tackles last year.
“He’s fighting for a position and he’s working every day,” coach Nick Sirianni said after the Eagles’ intrasquad practice at the Miami Dolphins practice facility.
“It was a great shot he had down the sideline against Cleveland (in the second preseason game). You see it in those workouts. He had that one down the sideline, then he cleaned up a play on fourth down that was well stopped. You see some of the things about why you brought him here every time he steps on the field. I’m glad he’s here and competing with the boys.”
CHARACTERISTICS OF TARTT
Tartt, of course, is well known for taking ownership of picking off a potentially game-changing interception in the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams last year. He spoke immediately after the game about it and explained why to Eagles reporters early in training camp.
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“I wouldn’t say it was important (to do that), but it was like the elephant in the room,” he said. “It was one of those things that for me, I consider myself a playmaker and I feel like if you watch film, I’m a guy where my film matches up with any of the safeties you call the best in this league.
“So for me, this was my moment to play for my team, to change the momentum of the game and I took it away. So I knew this was going to be one of those things that people point out that if Tartt makes that pick, they could have won or whatever they say. For me, personally, it’s how I had a chance to play for the team and I didn’t. It’s part of football.”
That kind of mentality can go a long way in the locker room, and Sirianni is all about the connection, so maybe that makes one thing the decision makers think about.
Something else to consider is 2017, when the Eagles signed safety Corey Graham, an 11-year vet, to a one-year deal. Graham battled a hamstring that summer, but eventually became the third safety on a Super Bowl championship team, posting two interceptions in the regular season.
It’s not easy to tell what snap counts might mean in a final preseason game, but Tartt played just 17 of them. He made four tackles, but his coverage was spotty.
Tartt missed several days during camp for undisclosed personal reasons. The same reasons forced him to miss the preseason opener against the New York Jets.
That missed time, combined with the late signing, may have left him a little behind in adapting to Jonathan Gannon’s defensive schemes.
Of course, Steven Nelson stepped in as the starting cornerback immediately after signing as a free agent on July 27 last summer.
The questions decision makers are obviously grappling with is how much certainty they should carry and does Tartt factor into the equation.
Did he show enough to unseat someone like K’Von Wallace, a former fourth-round pick just two years ago?
On August 24, Tartt tweeted, “When you know your worth… Stand by it!”
What that might mean is anyone’s guess, but his Eagles fate will be known any hour now.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagles Today Fan Nation and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.