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Can Jeremy Chinn Succeed At Safety?

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that Jeremy Chinn will play safety in 2021 - what does the film say about this decision?
Jeremy Chinn

The Carolina Panthers did not have a good defense in 2020, but they have one very promising young starter in Jeremy Chinn. The Southern Illinois product excelled at linebacker last year, recording 117 tackles while finishing second to Chase Young for Defensive Rookie of the Year. However, after that successful campaign, head coach Matt Rhule announced that Chinn will move back to safety in 2021. Is the former second-round pick up to the task, and can he be even better next year?

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Carolina Panthers Film Review: Will Jeremy Chinn Succeed At Safety?

Before we look into Chinn’s ability at safety, we first need to address why the change is happening in the first place. Even though the former second-round pick had a fantastic season at linebacker, he isn’t built to play the position long-term. At 6’-3” and 221 pounds, Chinn is smaller than your typical linebacker. While he didn’t struggle to wrap up ball carriers in 2020, it stands to reason that his smaller frame would have a hard time surviving in the trenches.

Chinn had a great rookie season, but there were times that his smaller frame became an issue. The rookie only had one sack and five quarterback hits throughout the season, which is not what you want to see from the position. Chinn is faster than just about every offensive lineman in the game, but he simply doesn’t have the size to beat a tackle or guard when squared up. This issue also emerged in the screen game, as shown in the clip below.

Given a full offseason to break down Chinn’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s very possible that opposing offenses could take advantage of his relatively small build. Moving him to safety, however, allows Chinn to spend more time out of the box and not having to go blow-for-blow with bigger, stronger offensive linemen.

What Chinn Can Do At Safety

Range and athleticism have always been the name of Chinn’s game dating back to his time in college. At the NFL Combine, Chinn tested in the 85th percentile for the 40-yard dash while also testing incredibly well in the vertical jump, broad jump, and bench press. While he is undersized for a linebacker, his height and weight are both in the 93rd percentile among safeties. If Chinn can be a good linebacker at his build, then he can be a great safety.

This range was already on display as a rookie, as the second-round pick displayed a fantastic ability to go across the field and bring down the ball carrier. Additionally, he could hold his own against tight ends in coverage and should see more opportunity to do that in 2021.

The biggest issue with Jeremy Chinn is if he’s improved his football IQ enough to play deep safety. Route diagnosis was his biggest flaw coming out of college, and his slow instincts were the biggest reason I gave him a fourth-round draft grade (oops). Chinn already outplayed my expectations, but he didn’t spend that much time playing deep zone as a rookie.

In a perfect world, Chinn will continue to improve his deep play and become a fantastic do-everything safety. However, the far more likely outcome is that he turns into someone like Patrick Chung. During his playing days, Chung spent the vast majority of his time as a pseudo-safety, dropping into the box on obvious run plays and covering tight ends in man coverage the rest of the time. Chung was quietly one of New England’s most important defensive pieces during their second dynasty, and Chinn has a very similar skillset.

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Embed from Getty Images


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