The Philadelphia Eagles added depth at safety last week with the signing of Johnathan Cyprien, giving the veteran an opportunity to crack the 53-man roster, as he fits what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seeks at the position.
The Eagles continue to look for defensive backs that can line up in coverage and play the box as a hybrid linebacker, similar to the role they had Malcolm Jenkins play the past three years. With Kamu Grugier-Hill being out for the start of the regular season due to a knee injury, the Eagles will go toward a five-defensive-back approach in certain sub packages to fill the void.
This is where Cyprien comes into the picture.
"We are going to plug him in in a lot of different places. We expect a lot from our safeties. We need multi-dimensional players; we think he is. We'll just see where it takes us," Schwartz said Sunday prior to Eagles practice. "It's a little tough coming five days into camp or five practices in, whatever it is. But he's a veteran player, and it's really a matter of terminology, picking it up. Hopefully in the next couple days he'll have a really good understanding of where we are and what we're asking him to do.
"If you get guys that are multidimensional you can neutralize some of those kinds of players. Have to be able to play in the box, in space, and things like that. I think he fits well with us."
Cyprien has started every game he's played in in his five NFL seasons (all 70 games), making 506 tackles with two interceptions, four forced fumbles, three sacks and 16 passes defensed. His coverage numbers aren't great, as opposing quarterbacks have a 118.3 passer rating when targeting him in his five years.
Cyprien has a reputation of being a hard hitter and an excellent run stopper, which would play well in the Jenkins role as a quality backup option. He played 316 of his 743 snaps in the box in 2017, similar to how the Eagles use Jenkins, who has played linebacker, safety and cornerback for the Eagles over the past five years.
Adding Cyprien gives the Eagles more depth at safety as he vies for the No. 3 safety job in the defense. The Eagles have Jenkins and Rodney McLeod as starters and Andrew Sendejo as another hybrid option who can play the box in the defense.
Sendejo was one of the best coverage safeties in the NFL in 2017, as opposing quarterbacks had just a 59.8 passer rating when targeting him. He allowed 17 catches for 257 yards and had three interceptions on 29 targets. The season prior, opposing quarterbacks had a 79.6 passer rating when targeting Sendejo, who allowed 12 catches for 214 yards on 19 targets. Sendejo had two interceptions that season.
Cyprien and Sendejo can battle for snaps, but there's a opportunity both can be on the roster. Sendejo specializes in coverage, which allows Jenkins to line up in the box as an extra linebacker. Cyprien provides a solid backup option for Jenkins, a safety who also can play the box if the Eagles wish to keep Jenkins in coverage.
The Eagles are going to get creative with the absence of Grugier-Hill at linebacker, using a five-defensive-back approach as a way to compensate the shortage of coverage linebackers. Cyprien helps fill that void.