Christopher Jackson/Associated Press
William and Mary safety Jerome Couplin has all the makings of a fan favorite. He's an exceptional athlete with outstanding size and length for the position at 6'2" and 215 pounds.
He has a great nickname in "The Osprey" for his incredible closing burst and ability to finish the play like the majestic waterfowl swooping down to pluck an unsuspecting fish from the water. Highlight-reel hits like the one pictured above inspire fans to rally to his cause. Couplin even has the underdog appeal of coming from the FCS level.
Those are all fine and well, but in order to make the Lions, he will have to improve quickly as a football player.
Don’t shoot the messenger here, but it’s obvious from watching game film why Couplin went undrafted despite being an athletic marvel.
I got to watch coach’s tape of his games against Villanova from 2013 and Lafayette from 2012. What I saw was disheartening for fanboys.
Couplin sorely lacks instincts and anticipation, especially in coverage. His football eyes are slow, and even after he sees what he needs to do, he doesn't always attack immediately, as if he doesn't quite trust what he's seeing.
Body control is also an issue. There were three plays in the Lafayette game where he closed on the ball very hard but was out of control and couldn’t finish the play because of it. He’s either going too slow or too fast; there’s very little medium. Most of his tackles were of the clean-up variety, not anything he initiated. He’s quite good at that, though.
He looked better in coverage against Villanova, including a very athletic breakup on a well-thrown ball. He also was late to react and get to the sideline on two other throws—plays he needed to make.
Couplin is trying to make it at a crowded safety spot. He will have to beat out veterans Isa Abdul-Quddus and DeJon Gomes for the fourth or fifth safety spot.
Having seen and scouted both Abdul-Quddus and Gomes, I think it's hard to see Couplin beating out either of them if the coaches are looking for 2014 contribution. That changes if they are taking a longer view, or if Couplin can quickly assert himself on special teams.
He'd make a great practice-squad player, with the chance to emerge as the third safety in 2015. That's when both Gomes and Abdul-Quddus will be free agents and Don Carey, the current No. 3 safety, can be cut without much negative salary-cap ramifications.
Odds: 15 percent