Why Roman Harper Will Win the Battle
Even though Harper is the oldest member in the secondary, he was a key contributor for this defense. He was the only player in the secondary for the Panthers to start every game last year. He finished third on the team last year in total tackles behind Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. He also led the team in interceptions with four and returned one of them for a touchdown.
More important than his stats from a season ago was the fact that he became the leader of this secondary. The fact the Panthers could pair a player like Harper with rookie Tre Boston helped him in his development once he was named the starter.
Why Kurt Coleman Will Win the Battle
Kurt Coleman signed with the Panthers this offseason and has experience playing both safety positions. Unless Boston regresses, the only position Coleman could compete for would be strong safety. Coleman is reunited with defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who he had some of his best seasons under while both were with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2011, Coleman made 78 tackles, one forced fumble and four interceptions. The next season the turnovers dropped a bit to two interceptions but his tackles jumped up to 93. The first season after McDermott left the Eagles, Coleman saw his playing time drop significantly and he finished with only 14 tackles.
Another factor that could play a factor and would favor Coleman is age with him being 27 years old versus Harper who will be 33 by the end of the season.
Right now Roman Harper has to be the favorite to win the starting strong safety job. He has experience in this defense and playing alongside Boston and the rest of the secondary. Even though Harper is the favorite, it would not surprise me to see Coleman win this job or at the very least earn a platoon-type role with Harper.
This could actually benefit both players as Coleman gets on the field and limiting Harper’s playing time should keep him fresher throughout the season.
Brandon Croce is the Lead Publisher for PantherInsider.com. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonCroce.