On Monday night when the Philadelphia Eagles face the Washington Redskins in prime time, free safety Kurt Coleman will make his first NFL start. It’s seems more like business as usual for the Eagles than anything else, given that Coleman is the 11th player to make his first career start in midnight green this year. Coleman will be the fourth rookie to start a game this year for the Eagles as well.
“I didn’t think it was going to come this soon, but it’s my opportunity to go out and shine,” Coleman said. “I knew I was good enough to play even though I was selected late, that was never a question in my mind.”
The Ohio State product was drafted in the seventh round by the Eagles, but showed more than enough in training camp and during the preseason to earn a roster spot. Now he gets to make his first start on one of the biggest stages of the regular season – ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
“I’m very excited to be able to play in this situation,” Coleman said. “It’s going to be an exciting game and it’s going to be a tough game but I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to kind of showcase myself, but playing within the scheme of this defense.”
It’s been impressive that the Eagles have been able to continue to plug one youngster in after another and still have success with their schemes. Six of the 11 first-time starters have been on the defensive side of the ball: Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Trevor Laws, Antonio Dixon, Dimitri Patterson and now Coleman.
“That’s the nature of that room,” said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. “Those guys are awesome, I wouldn’t want to be around any other defense. Those guys love to play, they love to be around one another and they’re building great relationships.”
If McDermott’s had any frustration with the learning curve of his youngsters, it’s definitely not showing. Just 36 years old himself, McDermott appreciates the excitement of some of his inexperienced players. He was the youngest assistant coach in the league in 2004 when Andy Reid made him his secondary coach, so he knows what it’s like to learn on the job.
“I love it; these guys are young guys and I love the energy,” McDermott said. “You love it as a teacher because their eyes are wide open each and every week, each and every day. Within that there’s going to be some mistakes due to experience and we have to understand that but continue to move them along in the right direction.”
Coleman is the next of McDermott’s pupils to make his debut as a starter, and the defensive coordinator thinks the national audience is the most important thing his free safety needs to overcome.
“In terms of Kurt’s biggest challenge this week, I would just say Monday Night Football. It’s his first start and then on Monday Night Football. But I think he’s up for it and I know his teammates trust him,” McDermott said.
Coleman doesn’t see what all of the hype is about Monday nights. After all, he played in a national championship game during his college days at Ohio State.
“I don’t really think of it as too much,” Coleman said. “It’s a start, and I’m very excited to get the start, it’s a great opportunity for me, but like I said I’m not going to get too excited about it or overthink it or dwell on it too much.”
It’s also a chance for Coleman to prove that he should have been picked higher than the seventh round. With the national stage, Coleman can show each of the 31 teams who passed on him what they missed out on.
Always positive and never one to play with a chip on his shoulder, Coleman didn’t seem to care about the extra motivation or the chance to prove 31 general managers wrong. The mild-mannered safety only admitted that they’d find out either way.
“They’ll see,” Coleman said with a smile. “They’ll see if I do good, or they’ll see if I do bad. Either way, they’ll see.”
Coleman seemed to glow with confidence while talking with the media, and his defensive coordinator and teammates echoed their full faith as well. Why not? They’ve been through this whole first career start conversation 10 times already, and they’re on pace for a 10 win season anyway.
Here are the Eagles’ 11 first-time starters this season, with rookies noted in parenthesis.
Week 1: Brandon Graham (R) and Nate Allen (R)
Week 2: Mike McGlynn and Trevor Laws
Week 3: Garrett Mills
Week 6: King Dunlap, Chad Hall, Antonio Dixon
Week 7: Riley Cooper (R)
Week 9: Dimitri Patterson
Week 10: Kurt Coleman (R)