Out of the Box: Cyprien Must Lift
No player figures to benefit more from the boost to the defensive personnel improvement around him than Jacksonville Jaguars strong safety Johnathan Cyprien. Entering his fourth NFL season, Cyprien must now lift his own game to match and really allow the defensive unit, particularly the secondary, to become more of a factor and less of a liability.
Fairly or unfairly, Cyprien was forced into a leadership role in the Jaguars back four early in his career. The talented Florida International product made a name for himself early as an aggressive tackler.
Against some strong passing games, and with an inconsistent group (both in personnel and performance) alongside him, Cyprien was often caught out, a product of having to be the playmaker and the ‘glue’ of the secondary.
The question is, can Cyprien claim the position as his own and keep the job?
In 2016, Cyprien has the opportunity to work with the best group that he has had since he began in Jacksonville. New signings Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukumara, first round pick Jalen Ramsey, a developing Aaron Colvin and the veteran Davon House give a significant talent and experience boost, whilst also being young enough to grow together as a unit. This influx should see Cyprien able to play a more natural role and defensive coordinator Todd Wash should be able to reduce some of the pressure on him.
Tight Ends were an issue for Jacksonville’s secondary last year (actually, anyone catching passes was), but overall strength in the shell can only help.
The challenge is therefore thrown out to Cyprien to lift his game. Gone are the excuses about the talent and the role he is being asked to play, now is the chance for ‘Cyp’ to be the difference maker many in the club and the league thought he could become. He must shake off his missed tackles issues from last year, which, in addition to his woes against the pass highlighted a disappointing 2015.
What will be interesting to follow is how Wash sees Cyprien’s role. Early indications are that he will be asked to play a role more suited to him – closer to the line of scrimmage.
Potentially, during the time of Aaron Colvin’s four-game suspension, this may emerge strongly as Colvin was used as an aggressive nickel defender during 2015. Without this presence, will Cyprien see more work down in and around the box or will he need to play deeper to cover for the loss of the exciting Colvin? Potentially, a deeper all around shell would provide the scheme flexibility for Cyprien to be that around the ball, aggressive playmaker that he was envisaged to be early on, a Polamalu type figure for Jacksonville.
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Whichever way the scheme plays out, this season presents the opportunity, and the challenge, for Number 37 to put his stamp on the league, to cement his role in Jacksonville and contribute to what should be a muchly-improve Jaguars lineup. If he doesn’t make the leap, second year safety James Sample is poised to snatch the opportunity as the Louisville product returns from injury that impacted his rookie year.