Safeties coach Michael Zordich knows a thing or two about what it takes to make it in the NFL.
A ninth-round pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, the former Penn State star won a national title before playing 12 seasons with the Jets, Cardinals and Eagles prior to getting into coaching. As he embarks on his second season as the safeties coach for the Eagles, Zordich likes the young talent at his disposal.
"They all want each other's job, but at the same time they're all supporting each other," Zordich said.
Right now, Zordich made it clear that Nate Allen is the starting strong safety and Kurt Coleman is the free safety (the position names are different in the Eagles scheme, but Allen is still the rangy player while Coleman works in the box). Jaiquawn Jarrett, a second-round pick last year, has promise, but is not yet ready to take over a starting job.
Zordich raves about Allen's physical ability. Allen had a promising rookie season cut short by a knee injury in 2010. The injury lingered into 2011, but Allen was needed on the field and worked through it.
"Nate's going to be special," Zordich said citing last year's Buffalo game as a turning point. "He is a gifted athlete. He can run. He can cover. He can tackle.
"When healthy, he's going to be a hell of a football player."
Zordich bonded with Coleman in 2010 after the seventh-round pick missed mini-camps due to the quarter system at Ohio State. The two worked together to learn the defense quickly and Coleman earned a spot on the 53-man roster. Last season, Zordich was further impressed after Coleman was benched for missing a tackle that led to a touchdown in the home contest vs. the Giants. After that game, Zordich told Coleman to his face that he was benched. It was how Coleman responded that made an impression on Zordich.
"He never put his head in the sand. He never quit. He never gave up. He missed a tackle in the Giants game that basically got him benched," Zordich said. "He never, ever complained. He just kept doing the same things in the weight room, in the classroom. He took the bull by the horns and eventually got his job back. He proved he could handle the heat."
With Coleman getting his job back, Jarrett remains on the sideline. Known for his tackling ability, these spring camps allow Jarrett to focus on his technique.
"I think he's worked extremely hard on his footwork, which he knows he has to get better at," Zordich said. "And just learning the defense and getting comfortable in the defense. That's just because of a lack of experience more than anything else. The kid's a smart kid. He works hard in the classroom."
Zordich expects Juan Castillo to utilize more zone pressures in his second season as a defensive coordinator. The safeties have worked on blitzing during the Organized Team Activities. And with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the starting cornerbacks, Zordich sees the shift towards more press coverage as a benefit for the safeties. The press coverage doesn't allow the receivers to have free releases and it disrupts the timing of the pass routes.
"It helps the safeties with what they're seeing downfield. That's a plus," Zordich said.
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