In what may seem like an annual issue, the Eagles head into the offseason with a major need for upgrades in the secondary. While free agent signee Malcolm Jenkins had an above-average season, the rest of the starting unit suffered from mental mistakes and poor play. Add those issues to the Eagles preference for size and the options are somewhat limited. However, there is really nowhere else to go from here but up.
The Eagles should be able to at least upgrade one of their cornerback spots and provide better competition for the starting safety job. Much-maligned defensive backs Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen are free agents and there is a good chance that they aren't re-signed. With that said, the Eagles may need to fill starting spots at cornerback and safety. Luckily, Miami defensive back Ladarius Gunter could easily compete at both positions.
A three-star recruit from Montgomery, Ala., Gunter started his college career at Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, Kan. After two seasons at the junior college, Gunter transferred to the University of Miami. In his first season, Gunter played in all 12 games (five starts) and collected 27 tackles (one for loss), two fumble recoveries and an interception.
As a junior, Gunter started and played in all 12 games at cornerback. He produced 46 total tackles (two for loss), a forced fumble, six pass breakups and three interceptions. In his final season at Miami, Gunter started and played in 13 games, while alternating from cornerback to safety and back again due to depth issues. He finished the season with 28 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions.
He was invited to and played in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Standing 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Gunter is a big defensive back. He has long arms and uses them very well. A willing and sound tackler, he is not afraid to be involved in defending the run. Gunter is an aggressive cornerback with a lot of athleticism and loose hips. He remains alert in coverage and takes advantage of mistakes. He has started 30 of the 37 games that he has appeared in, so he has a solid amount of experience heading into the NFL.
Gunter biggest appeal is his experience at playing both safety and cornerback. While he can compete for both at the NFL level, he is most likely to follow in the footsteps of fellow Miami alum Antrel Rolle, who moved from cornerback to safety early in his NFL career.
Gunter's biggest issue at cornerback would be his speed. While he offers short area quickness, he tends to get beat deep on tape. Also, while he is tall and muscular, he doesn't really use his height to his advantage. At Miami, he was not asked to backpeddal, which is something that he will have to adjust to at the NFL level.
Gunter's lack of a true position is both a strength and a weakness. While he isn't likely to come off the board until Day 2, Gunter's size makes him an appealing option at both positions. Cornerback seems to be in higher demand, which may push him down the board, but he does have the makings of an ideal safety candidate for the Eagles. Philadelphia wants its safeties to be able to be used in man coverage and perform adequately, which Gunter has shown he can do at both safety and cornerback. The Eagles love size and athleticism and Gunter possess both. He could be a third round target for Chip Kelly and Co.
Trust Your Own Eyes
This is the first of what will be many draft profiles on BGN. If you've been around for a while, you know that the draft coverage will be extensive. Expect new profiles every Monday and Wednesday with some other sprinkled in between. You can tweet me requests or just start up a conversation or debate on Twitter. Follow me at @mike_e_kaye.