PHILADELPHIA ( — We got a number of hints Saturday as to what the Eagles are thinking when it comes to Johnathan Cyprien, the veteran safety with extensive starting experience who was signed on Friday.

The thought that Cyprien could serve as a hybrid back-seven player was dispelled by his conditioning. Typically a 220-pound plus safety, the Florida International product showed up in South Philadelphia at 211 pounds, perhaps a nod toward the ACL rehab he just underwent in an effort to put less stress on his legs.

Then comes the fit. In the past defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz has talked a lot about safeties with cornerback in their backgrounds, a column Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham all fit into. The goal being coverage in the modern NFL but Cyprien is regarded as a true box safety, not a player who is going to thrive in center field.

So maybe the goal is more "Big Nickel."

To date that look has been Jenkins, Andrew Sendejo and Tre Sullivan in practice but McLeod is close to getting back in the mix, working in team drills that weren't live on Saturday for the first time this summer.

In theory with McLeod being back as the single-high position and Jenkins able to be the chess piece that Schwartz can move all over the board depending on matchups, Cyprien might bring an ability to handle run support in a way a player like Sullivan could never do.

“Let me tell you something about safeties. I think we’re the most versatile people on the field,” Cyprien told reporters after his first practice in Philadelphia where he got some looks on the second-team defense “Not only can we cover one of the top targets on teams, like tight ends, but we can also tackle the great running backs that we have in this division. So we’re able to do a lot of things. Coaches just get smarter and smarter by using us in different ways. I mean, look at Malcolm [Jenkins]. He plays every position on the field."

For what it's worth Doug Pederson talked about depth when asked about his newest player.

"It just gives us depth,” the coach explained. “We swapped out player-for-player [Godwin Igwebuike was waived] at that position … Bring him in, let him see what he can do and how he can help us."

In other words, Occam's Razor -- the simplest answer is usually the correct one -- is at play here.

Because Cyprien was once a high-profile safety in the league and a former 33rd overall pick, many are convinced this is more than just rolling the dice on a talented player who has been injury-plagued the past two seasons.

However, it's really just the typical low-risk, high-reward signing by Howie Roseman.

"He's just got to come in and embrace the role," Pederson said. "He has been a box safety a bunch in his career and he’s a physical guy. No one better to learn from obviously than Malcolm and what Malcolm does in that safety position. It's just about him coming in and picking up our defense as fast as he can, fitting into that role, and hopefully these preseason games he gets time to show us what he can do."

Cyprien is excited to get started.

"Whatever I can do to help this team and organization," Cyprien said. "That’s what I’m going to do."

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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