Johnathan Cyprien to Jaguars: How Does Safety Fit with Jacksonville?

Brad Hill@CaliforniaJag and JaguarsBlogContributor IApril 26, 2013

Jan 26, 2013; Mobile, AL, USA; Senior Bowl north squad defensive back   Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International (37) prior to kickoff of a game against the Senior Bowl south squad at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When Day One ended, most draft fans already had a short list of the players they wanted their team to draft. I was one of those short list consisted of:

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State

Johnathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International

Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

There were other players I would've been okay with, but those were my favorites.

This morning, rumors started to trickle out the Jaguars were interested in drafting one of three players: Cyprien, Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks, and USC QB Matt Barkley.

The Jacksonville media had made it pretty clear the Jaguars weren't looking to take a quarterback with the 33rd pick, which meant Banks and Cyprien were the most-rumored selections.

The choice came down to the cornerback vs. the safety. Cyprien was the choice, and though some fans may have been higher on the big-school cornerback as opposed to the small-school safety, Jaguars fans will quickly learn to love their new hard-hitting safety.


With Dwight Lowery already on the roster as the starting free safety (and a very effective one at that!), attention turns to the strong safety position. The Jaguars literally have zero other players on the roster capable of playing strong safety at an acceptable level. Enter Cyprien.

Cyprien should be able to immediately step into the starting lineup at strong safety and upgrade the position to a level Jaguars fans haven't seen in some time.

Last year's starter, Dawan Landry, graded out as a below-average starter by Pro Football Focus, meaning Cyprien would be an upgrade simply by performing at an average level.

Gus Bradley's defense in Seattle mainly featured a single-high safety (in Seattle, Earl Thomas) with the second safety playing mainly in the box (Kam Chancellor). With Cyprien starting at strong safety, the Jaguars will be able to disguise their defensive looks in the secondary even more efficiently than the Seahawks.

Unlike Chancellor, Cyprien is very adept at playing deep in coverage. He's a sideline-to-sideline safety that can make plays in coverage. This allows the Jaguars to line up both safeties deep pre-snap and bring either one closer to the line of scrimmage. They can also line up with both safeties shallow and drop one or the other deep. Confusing? That's the point.

Cyprien excels at stopping the run, an area in which Landry wasn't very impressive. He should immediately help improve the Jaguars' run defense, which was third-worst in the NFL in 2012.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Cyprien contribute on special teams as well, but that will be the least of his responsibilities. He should be a starter at strong safety in Week 1.

Early Projections:

The main impact Cyprien's addition to the Jaguars should have is that the run defense should improve. The Jaguars were awful against the run last season, allowing 141.0 yards per game (30th in the NFL). Replacing the departed Landry with Cyprien should definitely be an upgrade in that respect.

In addition to improving the run defense, adding Cyprien should also help the Jaguars improve against the pass. Jacksonville's secondary was subpar in 2012, ranking 22nd in the league in yards allowed per game with 239.5.

Expect Cyprien to pick off a few passes this season. He intercepted four passes last season for Florida International, and he has the talent to be a ballhawk in the secondary and make plays in the passing game.

Cyprien's presence allows the Jaguars to better defend opposing tight ends as well. In a division with solid tight ends like Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Owen Daniels and Delanie Walker, Cyprien gives the Jaguars a safety they can trust in man-to-man coverage against opposing pass-catchers.

Gus Bradley likes versatile players, and Cyprien is an extremely versatile safety. He can play both safety spots and can also contribute on special teams.

Bradley will likely spend a lot of time figuring out ways the Dwight Lowery/Cyprien combination can frustrate opposing passing games. The modern NFL is about more than the previous regime's philosophy of "line up and run them over;" it's about schemes, matchups, deception and speed.

Cyprien's addition to the Jaguars' defense gives Bradley a way to confuse offenses by lining up both safeties in various positions on the field and having them move around before and after the snap.

If the Jaguars wanted a versatile, efficient safety with the ability to impact both their run and pass defenses, they've succeeded with this pick.


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