Aug 102010

August 10 Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Smallwood

“Nobody knows better than Quintin Demps the opportunity he let slip through his hands.

This time last year, he was atop the depth chart at free safety.

Solid performances through minicamps and offseason training activities had earned him the first shot at replacing Brian Dawkins.

All he had to do was keep performing and justify the faith the Eagles coaches had placed in him, and a starting job in the NFL was his.

It didn’t happen.

By the time the preseason was done, rookie Macho Harris, a converted cornerback, had beaten out Demps.

Harris became the first rookie to start at safety on Opening Day for the Eagles since Wes Hopkins in 1983.

And even after Harris struggled, eventually losing the job after six starts, Demps didn’t get the call to replace him.

In fact, in a hodgepodge season when the Eagles struggled to find a replacement for Dawkins, Demps, picked in the fourth round in 2008 to be the heir apparent to Dawkins, didn’t make a single start.

He’d learned a sobering and humbling lesson about the rapidly changing status of players in the NFL.

A decline can happen much faster than ascension.

“Oh man, I know,” Demps said of the chance he missed. “I missed out on a big opportunity. It’s a life lesson learned. I can’t blame anyone but myself.

“I didn’t handle it well. I was talking too much, trying to do too much. I was trying to be a Pro Bowler before I had become a starter.”

But blowing one opportunity is different than blowing a career.

If Demps saw the writing on the wall about his career in Philadelphia once the Eagles signed Indianapolis Colts free-agent safety Marlin Jackson and drafted South Florida safety Nate Allen in the second round of the 2010 draft, it didn’t stop him from working to show he was better than the player who struggled last season.

If he was bothered that Allen was elevated to starter to begin training camp after Jackson was lost for this season to an Achilles’ tendon injury in June, it hasn’t showed.

In fact, Demps’ play thus far during training camp has been an early bright spot in a secondary with a lot of questions.

Allen has performed well, too, but Demps is definitely putting pressure on the rookie to keep his level of play high.”

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