Andy Reid said on Monday that the starting Safeties for now are Nate Allen (FS) and Kurt Coleman (SS). The team has no plans to bring in a veteran.
Good, I say.
Kurt Coleman was a mess early on last year. He was tentative and sloppy. He struggled vs the run and pass. He took over when Jarrad Page was benched and we saw a different Kurt Coleman. He wasn’t a great player by any stretch, but did some good things and was solid overall.
In the 10 starts after the benching, Kurt had 4 INTs and a FF. He showed the ability to play back in coverage or up in the box. The Eagles held the Giants to 29 yards rushing in the November game and Coleman played in the box a lot that night. Kurt put a big hit on Rob Gronkowski in the NE game and that took Gronk out of the game for a while. Kurt almost picked off a pass to Plaxico Burress in the endzone in the Jets game, but Plax was able to knock it away. Kurt was an effective blitzer when given the chance. He didn’t have any sacks, but he got pressure and hurried several throws.
So what are/were the issues? Kurt lacks ideal size and speed. That’s not a good combination. If he was bigger, maybe he makes the INT on the pass to Plax. As a 5-10 SS with so-so leaping ability, Kurt has to wait for the ball to come to him.
There was a pass play to the TE in the SEA game where you could see the speed issue. The TE ran a crossing route. He got a step on Kurt early on and was able to stay open. Kurt couldn’t make up the ground. That led to an easy pitch and catch.
The biggest mistakes Kurt made during the year involved mental mistakes. He bought on a pump fake in the blowout win over Dallas and let a WR run right by him and get wide open for a long TD. Didn’t affect the game, but you can’t make those mistakes.
Kurt missed a tackle in the first Giants game and that began the Victor Cruz year of glory. I say it was a mental mistake because Kurt looked completely indecisive on what to do. Go for the big hit? Make the wrap up tackle? Go high or low? Kurt didn’t commit to any choice and looked like a fool as he was brushed aside by Cruz on the way to the endzone.
Kurt missed a tackle in the Arizona game that gave them the go-ahead TD. Once again he had a simple play in front of him and he just whiffed. This time Kurt was decisive, but he was sloppy and lunged rather than staying under control and making the safe, sure play.
I think Kurt can overcome these mistakes with coaching and practice. He doesn’t lack the ability to tackle. He had some games where he tackled very well. This isn’t like Jarrad Page. You put on the BUF game and he was machine-like with his missed tackles. Kurt had a handful of costly mistakes, but they were spread over months rather than in one game.
The way Kurt can overcome his limitations is to be prepared to the point that he’s always a step ahead mentally. He can’t react. He can’t guess. He needs to know. Kurt played like this at Ohio State. He’s done it for parts of his short career.
I think Kurt gained a lot of invaluable experience last year. Some was good, some bad. If he’s able to learn from it and build off of it, I think he can be a solid starting SS.
Part of the key for Kurt is getting lots of reps this spring/summer and having a chance to show the coaches what he can do and that he has made progress. Adding a veteran to the mix would have made this a really complicated situation.
While the Eagles want Kurt to get his chance, they also want Jaiquawn Jarrett to have a chance to show what he can do. Jarrett was a 2nd round pick because the team likes him a lot. They think he can be a good starter. Jarrett was very up and down as a rookie. He didn’t earn the right to be at the top of the depth chart.
If the Eagles tried to have Yeremiah Bell (or any vet) battle with Kurt and JaiJar for the job, I don’t know how effective that would have been. There aren’t equal reps in a camp situation. Someone in the situation would have lost practice reps. With less reps, young players will sometimes try to make big plays more than they should and that’s not good. Going for home runs will lead to more strikeouts, to steal a baseball analogy.
I think the smart play here is to give May and June to Kurt and JaiJar. Let them have all the reps in the mini-camps and passing camps. Neither guy got the benefit of offseason work last year and it showed. Let’s see how they do and what the coaches think. If the players are struggling in any way, you can then add a veteran Safety prior to Lehigh. There won’t be great choices, but the guys on the market now aren’t exactly in the Reed-Polamalu-Dawkins class.
If you believe in your young players, give them a chance to show what they can do. I believe in Kurt Coleman. I’m not so sure what to make of Jaiquawn Jarrett. The Eagles liked him more than I did when they picked him in the 2nd round.
One thing I have to make clear. Sticking with the same guys isn’t an endorsement that the Safety play of 2011 is acceptable. The expectation is that the players will get better. The Safety play last year was far too erratic. Kurt had his mistakes. Nate was very good at times, but also had some struggles. He was dreadful vs NE. Jarrad Page was…well let’s just say that he never met a missed tackle he didn’t like. Jarrett was a rookie that showed promise at times and struggled at others.
Allen should be better now that he is 100 percent healthy. Coleman should be better with another year of experience under his belt. Jarrett should get better now that he has an idea of what the hell is going on.
Colt Anderson is on the mend, but I think of him as strictly a STer for now.
Tom Nelson took his spot after the injury. He showed some S postential in Cincy.
Rookie Phillip Thomas was a very good FS at Syracuse and could make for a good backup to Nate. Thomas certainly has the physical skills to be an NFL player. He can cover, catch, hit, and tackle.
Look at the young guys for now. Add the veteran later, if needed.
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Pauly D wrote a column on the Safety position. He seems to be more of the “let’s go add a veteran” mindset. I get where he’s coming from. I respect that opinion. I just prefer to stick with the young guys.
Domo has a few stats in his column about catches/yards/TDs given up by Eagles Safeties. I’d like to look into that stuff this summer if I get a chance. It can be tricky as to who is really at fault on some plays. We’ll see how time goes.
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The new MAQB column by NFL Gimpy got posted yesterday. He has some interesting thoughts about TEs and how they are crucial to the top QBs. Good stuff.