Only five games into the season, it's clear Walter Thurmond has been a special addition to the Eagles' secondary.
Spending his entire career at cornerback, he agreed to a move his coaches believed would not only help the team but also allow him to excel individually. Thurmond became a safety.
Little did he know the switch would land him a permanent starting spot next to Malcolm Jenkins, allowing the two to become one of the best safety tandems in the NFL to start 2015.
Currently, he leads all the Eagles with three interceptions, a feat that also has him tied for second among NFL safeties. Prior to this year, Thurmond had only one interception to his name, a pick-six in 2013 as a member of Seattle. He's already tripled that stat and there are at least 11 more weeks left of football to be played.
The increase in picks was something he was looking forward to when making this transition, and as the season progresses, he'll be looking to get the ball more and more.
"Playing in this type of defense back in college, knowing what was going to be asked of me in this defense and just knowing my ability as a football player and being able to make plays, I was really expecting to have a high interception rate," Thurmond said. "I've left a couple out there on the field, but I just want to do whatever I can to get the ball back to our offense, or if not try and score on defense. I'm just trying to contribute as much as possible to win games."
While admitting he still has work to do in terms of learning the ins and outs of the position, many of Thurmond's biggest strengths are being utilized more frequently. He can now be a more visual player and play with his instincts.
According to defensive coordinator Bill Davis, those specific attributes are the reason the coaching staff knew he would fit well into its plan at safety.
"He really understands formation of personnel grouping, route tendencies, what two- and-out means with one coming in and those type of things," Davis said. "That together with some of the defenses we have to kind of highlight that ... has had Walt playing at a pretty good, pretty high level."
Another advantage for Thurmond and his move was having a partner like Jenkins to practice and play with on a daily basis. The two challenge each other, working to become better.
With three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery between the two of them, it's safe to say they've solidified the safety position for the Eagles.
"He's somebody that I think we compete against each other every day to see who makes the most plays. We get motivated off of each other's style of play. We're both from similar backgrounds – corners that are now playing safety," Jenkins said regarding Thurmond. "But, he has a lot of things that you can't coach. He has a knack to get around the football, a knack to punch the ball out and he's been making plays ever since he stepped foot here in Philadelphia. It's fun to watch him play."
Knowing what the process of switching from corner to safety is like, Thurmond's fast start has not been at all surprising to Jenkins. The veteran truly believes his teammate possesses a special skill set and ability to find the ball that most other players don't have.
"His responsibly on some plays is just rob the quarterback. We don't have to have a coaching tip for you to use. Just do what you do," Jenkins explained. "A couple interceptions were just off his own ability. When you have players like that, you cut them loose and try not to slow them down with scheme or coaching. You just let them be them."
As a former Giant, Thurmond will have another big test on Monday when he faces his former team. Quarterback Eli Manning has only thrown two interceptions so far this season, but that doesn't mean the safety won't be pushing for a takeaway.
His familiarity with New York is something he hopes will be a benefit come game time.
"Just knowing some of the tendencies that Eli likes to do," Thurmond said. "The offense is a little bit familiar, obviously some of the running backs and the receivers, stuff like that. I think it's a good little advantage to have going into this game, being able to anticipate some of those things."
After playing limited time with the Giants due to injury last season, this quick start with the Eagles is exactly what Thurmond had hoped would happen. With five games as a safety under his belt, he can only continue to improve and help his team find success on the field.