Eagles Wake-Up Call: Thurmond’s Crash Course
When the curtain lifts on the 2015 Eagles season, Walter Thurmond — strictly a corner during his five years in the pros to date — will have approximately four months of offseason training at the safety position under his belt. He has been splitting reps with the first team in the early going and, given the shortage of options at the moment, could wind up sitting atop the depth chart along with Malcolm Jenkins when the season rolls around. But just how realistic is it that a player can transition successfully in that short amount of time, to the point that he can be relied upon as the opening day starter?
“It depends on the person,” said Billy Davis. “If you know Walter, it’s not that hard because Walter has such a great, broad football understanding. And even naturally at safety, he’s never played, he just naturally takes the angle that needs to be taken, he naturally is in a spot to where he should be on that play. He has a great feel and a great vision. I’m talking about eyes. Instinctive players really can see it all, whereas guys that aren’t very instinctive see a very narrow…they have blinders on, and they can’t see much more than what they’re staring at. Because Walter has that vision, I think it’s going to be a good fit at safety for him.”
New defensive backs coach Cory Undlin said that the staff approached Thurmond in the early going about a position switch, and the 27-year-old was quick to accept the challenge. Like Davis, Undlin cited Thurmond’s instincts when evaluating him at the safety position, and also complimented Thurmond’s athleticism and movement skills.
Undlin cautioned, though, that the switch from corner to safety is not as simple as some make it out to seem.
“Sometimes there is a generalization that corners can just go back and play [safety]. It’s not that easy,” said Undlin. “Things happen back there. There’s a lot more communication that you have to do. Your world gets shrunk. You can be in the deep part of the field, you can be down. Now you’re dealing with four wide receivers as opposed to playing corner and playing one. He’s embraced that and I like where he is right now. We’ll see how it goes.”
The Eagles need an answer opposite Jenkins. With Earl Wolff (knee) still sidelined and the position thinned out overall, Thurmond will get a crack at filling the void. His development will be fascinating to watch as we get deeper into the summer.
“The biggest challenges for Walter will just be the communication and learning the defense right now,” said Undlin, “but there’s no question the kid can play the position. He’s a good player. He’s athletic, he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s got great awareness. Now you have to be in that position just like you do when you take any new job or you switch a job, you need reps at it. So you have to be in the situation to go through any possible thing that could happen and every coverage, and that takes time.”
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jeff McLane on the strong showing by Nolan Carroll early on.
Undlin has instituted a points system for his defensive backs that monitors their practice habits. Points are given, of course, for interceptions and pass breakups, but minor details like trying to strip the ball or using your hands properly in press coverage are also rewarded.
Carroll has won many of the competitions, Undlin said. The cornerback said that he has bought into the coach’s methods.
“We’re setting the bar high for us to be successful,” Carroll said. “We want to be the best group back there. Last year, everybody’s talking about how we were the worst group back there. This year coming in we took offense to that.”
I think from Evan’s standpoint, I clearly understand what he’s looking at. He’s not looking for a lot more money, not very much at all. A slight pay increase is my understanding, and incentives in his contract if he makes the Pro Bowl, which I think is fair to me. If he would hit them, obviously he would be rewarded, but of course the team would be because if he makes the Pro Bowl everyone’s happy.
But, the fact of the matter is, nothing that I know of is on the horizon here, and I’ve been asked repeatedly about his future, and I would say I would be pessimistic, clearly, for him to be on the (Eagles) this fall.”
OTAs continue at the NovaCare. Practice begins at 12:20. We’ll speak to the players afterwards.