As the Eagles prepare for August’s training camp, coaches and staff members will be plotting out position battles and gauging player performances from the recent minicamps. Though the safety position is one of the hardest to judge in a non-tackling minicamp, it’s clearly the most intriguing position battle heading into the preseason.
Chip Kelly recently announced that he would be moving former Seahawks Walter Thurmond from cornerback to safety, a gamble that could well pay off based on his physical attributes. However, another player to keep an eye on is former Detroit Lion Jerome Couplin III. Couplin, entering his second professional season, was tagged by CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank as the Eagles’ starter for week 1.
Philadelphia Sports Nation caught up with Dave and Kyle Chadwick at William & Mary Sports blog, who witnessed most of Couplin’s college career with the Tribe. Couplin is best known for his hitting ability and ferocious tackling, something that brew as a product of his role at William & Mary: “W&M likes to move its safeties around a lot; in so doing, Tribe safeties often play a sort of hybrid linebacker/safety role. Naturally, we saw Jerome around the ball early and often, making big plays around the ball and dealing out monstrous hits,” they said. ” Basically, any time the opposing team carried the ball near him, you knew it was going to be an automatic tackle for the Tribe–and that isn’t an exaggeration.” Couplin led the Tribe with 113 total tackles in the 2013 season.
The Eagles employ a completely different tactic at safety: coordinator Billy Davis uses two interchangeable free safeties, whose jobs are to give help behind the cornerbacks. Couplin posses a remarkable 81-inch wingspan, and was commonly known as “The Osprey” in his college days. The Chadwick’s believe the primary reason Detroit cut Couplin was due to his difficulty in coverage. “Ultimately, his talents may be best suited for the strong safety position, where he can both cover and punish the opposing team’s players with strong tackles throughout the game.”
One aspect Eagles coaches will be stressing this summer will be the defensive backs’ ability to play the football. Last year, fans saw former Eagles Cary Williams, Brad Fletcher, and Nate Allen struggle to turn and look for the ball. This cost the Eagles in big yardage, both from pass interference penalties and long completions, most notably on Sunday Night Football against the Dez Bryant. Couplin not only has a large wingspan, but also possesses a high vertical leap. William & Mary Sports blog referenced Couplin’s clutch interception against James Madison, which can be found on the highlight reel below. The tape clearly illustrates Couplin’s hitting and ballhawking skill.
As far as his outlook for 2015, Couplin should make for a key special teams contributor with his hard hitting ability. The preseason will be key for all the defensive backs, when they face the high flying Colts and Packers offenses.
At the least, we at the William & Mary Sports Blog believe he will make the roster as a backup safety seeing some significant playing time on the field this year. At the most, we could see the Eagles coaching staff elevating Couplin to the level of starter if he excels this offseason and shows that he has improved since his time in Detroit a season ago.
Physicality from the safety position is something the Eagles haven’t had since the days of Brian Dawkins. If Coupling even becomes a sliver of the player Dawkins was, the Eagles may have found a diamond in the rough.