After spending every practice of his extremely young professional career learning the strongside linebacker position, Ricky Sapp returned to his college position of defensive end at practice on Tuesday as the fifth-round pick continues to show his versatility.
For the first time since he arrived in Philadelphia following April's draft, Sapp found himself under the tutelage of defensive line coach Rory Segrest rather than linebackers coach Bill Shuey. Sapp said after practice that he will likely work with the defensive line group again on Wednesday before returning back to linebacker on Thursday, the final day of the Rookie and Selected Veterans Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
Sapp's dual duties are an example of the "cross-training" that takes place at this time of year for players who have the skills to play multiple positions, much like Macho Harris at cornerback and Alex Hall at defensive end. Sapp is a natural pass-rusher and the coaching staff has a good idea of his talent at defensive end, but because he was never a full-time linebacker in college, now is the perfect time to teach him both the basics and nuances of the position.
"Defensive end is more second nature (for me), but what I tell a lot of people is that I don't have a problem playing linebacker," Sapp said. "I can play (linebacker) and feel comfortable. It's just that I played (defensive) end all my life so I'm always going to feel comfortable playing it."
Sapp, 6-foot-4, 252 pounds, knows that his versatility is one of his biggest strengths and that showing he can perform in multiple roles will increase his likelihood of finding the field.
"Right now I look at myself as a utility person," he said. "I'm going to be doing a lot of things like playing end and standing up at linebacker. And I'm pretty sure the defensive coordinator (Sean McDermott) is going to be putting in a package where I'll be playing the Joker."
The Joker position in the Eagles defense is a spot where the player lines up standing close to the line of scrimmage and is often deployed as a blitzer. The departed Chris Clemons occupied the position for the Eagles last year, so Sapp is certainly a potential replacement there.
"I just want to help the team as much as possible," Sapp said. "I have a good opportunity to showcase my versatility at linebacker and be able to rush with my hand down.
"It's not tough (to learn two positions) because defensive end is pretty easy. I know that stuff."
As for the progress of Sapp's linebacker education, the rookie says that he's got the movement and positioning down already, but he's still working to perfect his knowledge of the defensive coverages, something he's never had to concern himself with before.
"I think the biggest transition is learning the coverages," he said. "Once I get the coverages down pat, real down pat, I'll have no problems at all playing linebacker."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 7:45 p.m., May 25