Philadelphia Eagles: Why Kurt Coleman Will Win the Starting Job at Free Safety

Zachary Arthur@Zach_ArthurSLCCorrespondent IIAugust 13, 2012

Philadelphia Eagles: Why Kurt Coleman Will Win the Starting Job at Free Safety

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    Things just haven't been the same since Brian Dawkins left—a thought that comes to mind a few times a year for a Philadelphia Eagles fan.

    Sure, the Eagles have done well and even had some solid defenses, but they haven't been the same feared team they once were.

    The position in question this year is free safety, and with Jaiquawn Jarrett's recent struggles, there seem to be two players competing for the starting spot: Kurt Coleman and O.J. Atogwe.

    With three more preseason games left on the schedule, here are five reasons that Coleman wins the starting position for the regular season.

Coleman Played Last Season at a High Level

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    Kurt Coleman isn't new to starting in the NFL.

    It would be one thing if he had never started a game and was competing for the starting spot, but he started 13 games for the Eagles last season and was relatively productive.

    Aside from a mind-blowing performance early in the season where he had three interceptions in one game, Coleman didn't do much in terms of his coverage. He did, however, have four games where he had 10 tackles or more. He's proved that he is a reliable tackler—that can't be stressed enough at safety.

    The Eagles coaching staff knows what they are getting with Coleman, and his reputation from last season should help him win the position battle.

Coleman and Allen Pair Up at Safety Well

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    Philadelphia strong safety Nate Allen was Coleman's partner in the back of the secondary last season, and while things didn't go great, they did go pretty well.

    The duo played well enough for the Eagles to have the No. 10 defense in passing yards given up per game last year. They also had six of the team's 15 interceptions.

    On top of those numbers, one seemed to play well when the other was. Allen also had an interception in Coleman's three-interception game, and both had 11 tackles in a game against the Seattle Seahawks late in the season.

    The fact that they are both only 24 years old means that they can continue to develop together and push each other to play better. The idea of two young safeties growing together definitely helps Coleman's case to start this season.

Atogwe's Injury Problems with Washington Last Year Are a Warning Sign

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    Football is a physical game. It's no secret to anybody, especially the players, that there becomes an age where staying healthy is less common.

    At 31 years old, O.J. Atogwe may have experienced the beginning of that last season. Philadelphia has to be cautious about how they handle him.

    They have a player that has seven years of experience and has been a very productive NFL safety, but he only started eight games for the Redskins last year after signing a five-year, $26 million contract the summer before.

    The Redskins released Atogwe because of how his injuries limited his availability in 2011.

    Atogwe has the skills to play either safety position—something that the Eagles should look into. Having Atogwe as a reserve would allow Allen and Coleman to grow as a tandem while gaining veteran leadership from the sidelines.

    Atogwe starting would only bring a sense of uncertainty as to whether the whole secondary will be healthy enough to start the next week. It would also delay Coleman's growth.

Atogwe's Production Is Beginning to Decline

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    With more injuries comes less production.

    Even though O.J. Atogwe is a victim of this cycle, it is one that can be altered in some sense.

    The Eagles aren't getting somebody that will have 75 tackles and eight picks—numbers Atogwe put up in 2007—but they are getting somebody that can teach Coleman and Allen how to improve their chances of having those type of seasons.

    Atogwe had three interceptions last season and saw the rest of his numbers decline, so clearly there is a better role for him than starter, right?

    Yes, and it's at being a veteran leader.

    Adjusting to being a veteran leader on the bench can be difficult after going through a career of success as a starter, but it is one that Atogwe would be best suited for.

Coleman Continues to Get the Job Done

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    People may criticize Coleman's physical tools and skill set, but they can't take anything away from what he has accomplished and overcome.

    He was pick No. 244 in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL draft and started most of the 2011 season. 

    He also considered quitting the game of football after his hit paralyzed a teammate during spring practices of his freshman year in college. Within a year of that, he dealt with his father getting breast cancer.

    His father is now cancer-free and Coleman is continuing to play football on the highest level.

    Nobody is saying that he is going to be an elite safety; however, he has been through a lot in life and he hasn't let that slow him down.

    These situations could be what drive his great work ethic; the same work ethic that he'll be using to get the starting job.