How Coleman figures into the mix at safety
We all know the Eagles' second-round selection of Temple safetly Jaiquawn Jarrett affected one veteran more than any other: Quintin Mikell.
With Jarrett in the fold, it seems unlikely (although not impossible, depending on how the labor situation is resolved) that Mikell will be back with the Birds.
But another Eagles safety probably also took notice: Kurt Coleman.
When Nate Allen was sidelined last year, Coleman was called on to fill in. I thought he played OK in fairly limited action. Remember, Coleman was a seventh-round pick out of Ohio State and got a later practice start than his peers because of NCAA regulations.
Recently, Pro Football Focus released a list of the best-tackling safeties in 2010. They found that of all the safeties in the league who attempted at least 15 tackles last season, only three never missed a tackle. They were the Rams' James Butler, the Bears' Major Wright and Coleman.
Per PFF's numbers, Coleman had 23 solo tackles. ESPN.com had him down for 31, but eight of those were on special teams.
While the fact that Coleman did not miss a tackle is impressive, it's important to dig a little deeper into the numbers.
I went through the play-by-play data to break down those 23 solo tackles. Actually, I included the playoff game against the Packers too so we're dealing with a total of 29 tackles.
AGAINST THE RUN
Fourteen of Coleman's 29 tackles came against the run. Of those 14, five tackles came within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, and two were within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage. And one tackle was for loss.
On average, running backs picked up 8.93 yards on carries where Coleman made a tackle.
The point is not to rip Coleman, but rather to get a better idea of his role when he was on the field. On many of those plays, Coleman was the last line of defense, where runs of 12 and 13 yards could have turned into runs of 30 or 40 yards if he didn't make a play.
But as the numbers indicate, for the most part, the Eagles did not count on Coleman to play up in the box and make plays at the line of scrimmage against the run.
AGAINST THE PASS
Fifteen of Coleman's 29 tackles were on pass plays. The average completion on a pass play in which Coleman made a tackle was 16.4 yards, although that number is inflated because of a 76-yard gain against the Redskins. Again, not altogether surprising, considering he was playing safety.
Of those 15 completions, 13 went for first downs, and five were third-down conversions.
As a team, the Eagles allowed 54 pass plays of 20 yards or more last season, fifth-most in the NFC. Part of that was on the corners, part was on the pass-rush (or lack thereof), and part was on the safety play.
We know the Eagles' pass defense has to better in 2011, but given the way the draft played out, we'll have to wait until free agency/the trading period to find out what their plan is.
Coleman's career can go in one of three directions once football resumes.
1. Maybe he competes for a starting job and beats out Jarrett. Remember, the longer the lockout continues, the more difficult it will be for rookies to contribute right away. Coleman could have a leg up in that respect.
2. Maybe he doesn't start, but makes the team as a backup. Coleman was a contributor on special teams last season. He ranked fifth on the team in special-teams points, and only Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou had more special-teams tackles.
3. Or Coleman could be one-and-done. This is unlikely, but remember, Macho Harris started his rookie year and was gone the next season. The comparison loses some relevancy, considering the Eagles tried to switch Harris from cornerback to safety, back to cornerback and then back to safety, while Coleman's been at one position the whole time. But the point is, there is always competition.