If anyone can do it, Dimitri Patterson can.
That seems to be the thought behind Patterson's recent implementation to the safety position after an entire football career spent as a cornerback. When the Eagles cut their roster down to the "final" 53-man team, there were only three safeties in tow versus six cornerbacks. But part of the reason that head coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman felt so comfortable going with those three safeties - two of them rookies - was their confidence in the ability to acclimate Patterson to the safety position.
As for what makes Patterson, 5-10, 200, best suited to adjust to that role? Well, the 27-year-old veteran has been a scrapper his entire career. An undrafted rookie from Tuskegee, Patterson spent time on a few practice squads across the league before finally carving a niche for himself last year as an outstanding special teams player and a physical, steady cornerback. That physicality will certainly benefit Patterson as he learns the new position - a position he said he's never played before at any level.
"He's a very physical corner, and also plays inside the nickel," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. "When you combine the physicality of his play, and his change of direction, and the size that he brings to the table, he's the best-suited corner right now for us to be the fourth safety. He's going to need to learn a little bit for us here over the next couple of weeks and get up to speed, but we think he's up to it."
Limited at the tail end of the preseason by a groin injury, Patterson is fit now and has been a full participant in practice all week. He was singled out several times during training camp by Reid, Roseman and McDermott for his impressive play, which he reaffirmed in the second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals when notched an interception, helped cause another and forced a fumble.
"Obviously they feel confident in my tackling ability," Patterson said about the move to safety. "Any way I can get on the field, I'm trying to get on. That's the way I look at it."
Of course, there are some serious hurdles to overcome as Patterson learns his new position (he's been primarily working as a free safety).
"You have a different set of responsibilities," Patterson said. "Your vision becomes wider; whereas at cornerback you have the half-field vision and at safety you have to watch the whole field ... Corner requires a lot more athletic ability and safety's more mental."
Luckily, Patterson's locker is only a few paces away from someone with extensive experience at safety who also knows a little something about rising from the depths of the undrafted free agent pool - Pro Bowler Quintin Mikell.
"Of course it would be the smart thing to do to talk to someone who's been doing it for eight years," Patterson said. "Whatever information I can get from anybody, I'm receiving it with open arms so I can use it to the best of my advantage.
"The more I get in there, the more I get comfortable with going through the motions in terms of the mental gymnastics, then I think I'll be fine."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 9:02 a.m., September 10