By Dylan MacKinnon
In the Nakobe Dean article from a few weeks ago we discussed how it had been 40 plus years since the Eagles spent a first round pick on a Linebacker. But for Safety, that number is even more extreme. In fact since the first ever draft in 1936, the Eagles have never spent a first round pick on a Safety. They have spent a few second round picks on Safeties, although not always with the best of results. But in general it has been a position they often do not invest highly in even if perhaps their best player ever played Safety.
But could that change this year? The Eagles have 3 first round picks, a pretty major need at Safety with both their starters being free agents. And its a good draft for Safeties in the draft, even with Jordan Battle not entering the draft. Lets look at one of those Safeties, namely Jaquan Brisker out of Penn State.
A Lot of Tools on His Belt
The Eagles love a Safety who can play a lot of roles. Often they have treated Safeties as an extra corner or an extra Linebacker. We saw them move Malcom Jenkins all over the field to make up for deficiencies elsewhere on the defense. One play he would be up in the box to act like a linebacker, then the next he may be in the slot, only to drop back in single high coverage the next play. They want their Safeties wear a lot of hats. And if that is your preference, Jaquan Brisker will be a good fit.
Brisker was expected to do a lot in the Penn State defense. And he did it all fairly well. In pass coverage, he has a good feel for where he is supposed to be. He has good awareness and footwork when in zone defense, and is decent in man coverage as well. Brisker can also drop back in deep coverage when needed. He tracks the ball well in the air, and uses his physicality to separate the ball from the receiver to breakup catches. On top of all of that, he is rangy and can cover a lot of space in short time.
And his mix of size and speed helps him match up with many different types of receivers. He wont get bullied by the size of a tight end, but also has the quickness to keep up with the smaller faster WRs.
Jaquan Brisker: Highest coverage grade among all Safeties since 2019 (92.2) pic.twitter.com/n7OFr4E6FT— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 20, 2022
But he probably does his best work in the box. Eagles fans will be happy to see how Physical of a tackler he is. He has a strong and long frame, and he uses it very well. If you play Madden you might be familiar with the term hit stick, and you will get that style of tackle from him every now and then. But he is more than just a big hitter. His burst and bend makes him a effective Blitzer. He uses his hands well to shed block, and even when he engages his play strength and physicality helps him to get through the block and track down the QB or ball carrier.
Overall, he is incredibly versatile and is capable of playing all over the defense. Which is exactly the type of Safety the Eagles prefer.
“Ever since I was in high school… I was always playing more than one position. So it fits me because that’s what I like to do, I like being around the ball, so that’s where I’m comfortable at, being around the ball.” -Jaquan Brisker
Things He Needs to Work On
Because Brisker is a jack of all Trades, it is tough to poke too many holes in his game. I haven’t even spoken about his high football IQ and the ability to diagnose plays. But there are of course some things he can be a bit better at.
For one, he sometimes over pursues on tackling angles. Its not a consistent issue, but it shows up enough on tape that it is worth mentioning and worth improving. He also sometimes allows a bit too much of a cushion on coverage. It seems he prefers to sit back so he can better see a play and react when the pass is made. And while that sometimes pays off, it also sometimes allows a completion. He would be better off giving a bit less of a cushion, so he can more often close on the play.
But these issues are all mostly minor. Overall he is a pretty complete player.
Took Losing Personally
A couple seasons ago Penn State had their first losing season since 2004. They began the Covid shortened season 0-5, though they finished with 4 wins to go 4-5. Brisker was supposed to go into the draft. But because of Covid, players were offered an extra year of eligibility. Brisker was not about to end his career at Penn State that way.
“I couldn’t leave on that note, especially with my name on it, and especially I owe it to the fans and I owe it to my family and things like that. I couldn’t go 0-5. That was one of the worst records in Penn State history for a while. I knew what type of team we had when I was coming back, and I talked to a couple of guys on the team. I talked to my family and I knew it was the right decision.””- Jaquan Brisker to the Philadelphia Inquirer
It was a decision that risked a lot for him. An injury may have hurt his draft stock and cost him millions. But it paid off. he had a personally great year, even if Penn State had only an average one. And according to his coaches, he stepped into even more of a leadership role.
“He’s always been one of our best workers, but his consistency off the field, the maturity he shows right now, he’s speaking out, he’s holding guys accountable. I’m super excited about the role he’s taken and the growth he’s shown.”- Brent Pry, Penn State Defensive Coordinator
Brisker is not just a very good player. He is the type of guy who brings accountability for not only himself, but for others. He knows what the expectations are and is determined to meet them. And if he doesn’t meet them, he will take that personally. Brisker is the type of guy you want in your locker room.
What Draft Experts Say
“Brisker’s increased ball production is something to be excited about and he’s made a lot of his big plays in big moments on the field—none better than the game-sealing interception in the red zone against Wisconsin to open the season. That play encapsulates a lot of what Brisker brings to the table as a cerebral defender, as his anticipation and recognition allowed him to start on the opposite hash and work into the MOF to undercut the throw and seal a win in the final minutes for Penn State. This would be an exciting addition to any secondary in need of versatility and game-changing plays. “
“Brisker has great long speed and full-field range for his size. He can cover ground quickly with energetic strides. He can chase down plays in pursuit, even from angles that aren’t ideal. It also helps that Brisker accelerates extremely quickly. He possesses a torrid initial burst, and when he keys in on plays, he explodes toward the ball.
Putting his athletic traits together, Brisker is a very versatile defender. He can line up in single-high, two-high, or in the slot. His combination of size, burst, and fluidity allows him to match up with almost anyone. The Penn State safety can match smaller receivers, as well as blanket tight ends up the seam.”
Brisker fits everything the Eagles want at Safety. He can do anything you need a safety to do at a fairly high level. The issue will be is Safety a position the Eagles want top invest a first in? It is hard to see Brisker falling to the Eagles pick in the 2nd round. The eagles have a lot of other needs, and they will have to prioritize what they spend their assets on.
But if they decide Brisker is worth the pick, it would be a very good pick.
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