The Carolina Panthers finished the season with Tre Boston and Roman Harper as the defense’s starting safeties. When the team signed free agent Kurt Coleman, the immediate thought was that Coleman could compete with Harper for the strong safety position, who is getting up there in age.
However, pretty much from the opening practice of training camp the starting safety combination has been Roman Harper at free safety and Kurt Coleman at strong safety, according to ESPN’s David Newton. This has been surprising on two fronts because Harper has never played free safety in his career and Boston was considered to be the future at the position.
As for Coleman, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise for him to be starting but the fact that it has happened so quickly certainly is. The 27-year old is back working in coordinator Sean McDermott’s defense, which is when he had the best years of his career. Coleman played for McDermott in 2011 and 2012 when both were with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Over the course of those two seasons, Coleman totaled 171 tackles, two forced fumbles, six interceptions and nine passes defended. To put these numbers in perspective, the past two seasons, Coleman only has 51 tackles, one forced fumbled and three interceptions.
So if Coleman is named the starter, what will he bring to this defense? Well the one thing that stands out the most is his physicality. He does not let the fact that he is a bit undersized (5’11”) stop him from being a force near the line of scrimmage. As Newton wrote in his article, “Coaches actually had to tell Coleman to go easy on the running backs during an inside drill a few days ago.”
Coleman also had a knack for forcing turnovers, particularly interceptions. Excluding the 2013 season, when he saw limited playing time, Coleman has averaged three interceptions per season. Last year on the Panthers defense, only one player had more than two (Roman Harper, 4). Once again, Coleman has shown this part of his game early in training camp with a few interceptions already to his name.
The combination of physical play and his knowledge of this system certainly has helped Coleman emerge as a front runner for one of the starting jobs. This battle is far from over and it is early in training camp but the addition of Kurt Coleman this offseason looks like it will pay major dividends for the Panthers.
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