James Sample is competing for a starting role at free safety with the Jacksonville Jaguars. It wasn’t a role he thought he’d be playing after spending more time at the strong safety position in Louisville and his skills seemingly translating better at that position in the NFL.
Now, he has to prove that he can be an adaptable defensive back for the Jags. He’ll have some decent competition for the starting role as well. His main competition is new free agent addition Sergio Brown who is a capable starter, having spent the last year with the Indianapolis Colts.
James Sample may not be a household name right now, but his name is one you should keep in mind as the offseason continues.
Erik Lambert over at NFL Mocks thinks that Sample should be more known, ranking him as one of the best steals of the 2015 NFL Draft, saying, “He is an ideal fit for that scheme for Gus Bradley, built in the same fashion of Kam Chancellor at 6’2″ with plenty of physicality to play in the box. He also has the athleticism to play all over the field. His one drawback is his lack of playing experience. What good will it do then to keep him on the bench?”
While his play at strong safety gets all of the attention, it’s important to keep in mind that Sample could translate as a quality free safety as well. He was the best coverage safety in the NCAA last season and has tackling skills to boot. These are things that the Jags desperately need on the back end of their defense, so Sample should have plenty of opportunities to succeed given his skill set. Pro Football Focus loves him and his statistics were only surpassed by fellow Louisville safety Gerod Holliman (who was also drafted late and is a bit more of a risk taker).
I can definitely see Sample turning out to be a major steal if he can continue to produce at the pro level. We’ll have to see if he can prove it to the coaches this offseason first, though.
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