Walter Thurmond is the safety the Eagles have needed


One of the most trite narratives in the NFL since the 2009 departure of all-time great safety Brian Dawkins has been the Philadelphia Eagles‘ lack of ability to replace him.  Numerous draft picks have been used on the position to no avail; many free agents have come and gone without ever coming close to making a positive impact on the secondary.  Last year’s signing of safety Malcolm Jenkins was a step in the right direction, but the glue that was needed to fix the middling secondary has come in the form of this year’s free agent signing, Walter Thurmond.

I, of course, said above that the signing of Jenkins was a step in the right direction for a team that desperately needed such a step to be taken.  Jenkins, a converted cornerback, was a bad scheme fit for Rob Ryan’s defense in his final year as a New Orleans Saint.  His poor play led to his being let go to free agency and signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Last year, playing next to safety Nate Allen, Jenkins graded out as the 18th best cornerback in the league according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) grading.  His inconsistent play and the lack of a viable safety on the other side of the field held him back from being the superb cover safety that he had to potential to be.

In Walter Thurmond, the Eagles have found a running mate that can elevate the play of the players around him.  A first year safety, no one could have predicted Thurmond’s immediate success at the position.  To date, he has been unreliable in his ability to stay healthy, missing an absurd amount of games due to knee, leg, ankle, and pectoral injuries.  A slot corner specialist, the Eagles likely brought him in hoping he would replace Brandon Boykin.  What they got in switching him to safety has been nothing short of outstanding.

Yet something feels different about this position switch.  Most players need time to adjust to such a change.  So far, that has not been the case with Thurmond, who grades out as the 3rd best safety in the league according to PFF.  His ability in all three facets of the positions–run stopping, coverage, and rushing the passer–has allowed Jenkins and the rest of the defense to thrive.

In Thurmond and Jenkins, the Eagles have the best safety tandem in the entire NFL.  Thurmond and Jenkins grade out at 3rd and 5th, respectively, at the safety position.  The next closest safety tandem in the league is the Kansas City Chiefs’ duo of Eric Berry and Husain Abdullah, who grade out as the 2nd and 10th best safeties, respectively.

The Eagles may not have found Brian Dawkins’ replacement in terms of someone who can be the heart and soul of the entire Eagles team.  But they found someone in Thurmond who, on the field, can elevate the play of those around him and help the defense in it’s pursuit of a Lombardi trophy.

Fly Eagles Fly.

Next: Fletcher Cox is One of the NFL's Best D Linemen

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