NFL Draft 2012: 10 Defensive Studs the Eagles Should Look at
The Philadelphia Eagles undoubtedly need help on defense, and a good draft in April could remedy this problem.
Here is a list of 10 guys that the Eagles should definitely take a long look at.
The Eagles may have finished eighth in the NFL in total defense, but that was due to the unit "improving" during the last four games of the season.
The Birds still finished only 16th against the run, which was an Achilles' heel all season for them.
With Juan Castillo back as defensive coordinator, the Eagles may need all the help they can get.
Luke Kuechly (ILB, Boston College)
The biggest issue for the Eagles last season was middle linebacker. Fortunately for the Eagles, they sit at No. 15 in the first round and have a good amount of options.
The first option at middle linebacker is Luke Kuechly from Boston College.
Kuechly led the nation in tackles last season, which usually translates into being a sure tackler who uses the proper tackling technique—something Philadelphia sorely missed during 2011.
The lack of an inside presence for the Eagles led to them finishing 16th in rush defense, giving up more than 110 yards per game on the ground.
Keuchly has good instincts, but he also isn't as athletic as other options for the Eagles.
Vontaze Burfict (ILB, Arizona State)
Another option for the Eagles is Vontaze Burfict out of Arizona State.
Burfict has the athletic ability that always catches the eyes of scouts and general managers.
Burfict's athletic prowess allows him to hit ball carriers with a lot of velocity, which will give offenses trepidation about crossing the middle. Burfict is a bit of an intimidator, which is something the Eagles did not have on defense last season. He's effective in pass coverage as well.
Burfict seems to be the kind of guy that will bring a bit of fire and swagger, which all good defenses have and use to their advantage.
If the Eagles pass on Kuechly, look for them to tab Burfict with No. 15.
Dont'a Hightower (ILB, Alabama)
Like I said, the Eagles are in a spot where they have a number of options at middle linebacker. Dont'a Hightower is another guy that the Eagles could definitely use in their defense.
Hightower, coming out of the SEC, played against some of the best talent in the country and flourished.
He was in the middle of the best defense in the nation that gave up only 8.8 points per game. He contributed with 81 tackles, almost 10 of which were for a loss of yardage.
Hightower brings a combination of athleticism and toughness and seems to be the best of all worlds for the Eagles.
If he slips to the No. 15 spot, the Eagles should take a long hard look at Hightower, considering how successful he was in the best conference in America.
Courtney Upshaw (OLB, Alabama)
The Eagles do not just need help at middle linebacker; they could use some depth at the outside spots as well.
Hightower's college teammate Courtney Upshaw could be the answer. Upshaw was another integral part of the nation's best defense with 52 total tackles.
But what Upshaw brings that the Eagles do not have is an outside linebacker that can rush the passer.
Upshaw racked up 9.5 sacks for the Crimson Tide and could be a very potent force off the edge alongside either Trent Cole or Jason Babin.
Zach Brown (OLB, North Carolina)
If the Eagles simply want speed from the outside linebacker spot, they could go with Zach Brown from North Carolina.
Brown has average size for his position, but his speed and athleticism allowed him to have some dominant performances in 2011 for the Tar Heels.
Although Brown is not the most physical of guys either, he still recorded more than 100 tackles last season.
Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
One reason the middle linebackers for the Eagles didn't have a good season in 2011 was because of the lack of depth at defensive tackle.
The Eagles have two solid tackles in Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, but neither are getting any younger and are not on the field every down.
Trevor Laws and Derek Landri were solid at best for the Eagles in the middle, but depth is definitely needed.
Devon Still could be that guy for the Eagles at No. 15 if they decide not to go with a middle linebacker at that pick.
Still, at 310 pounds, was a huge run stopper in the middle for the Nittany Lions. He racked up 55 tackles and an astounding 17 tackles for a loss—not to mention four-and-a-half sacks, which is supposed to be a weak area of his game.
Still is a guy that will suck up blockers, which will free up those much-maligned linebackers for tackles.
Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis)
An even bigger presence in the middle could be defensive tackle Dontari Poe out of Memphis.
Poe is a mountain of a man at 350 pounds.
Poe did not have eye-popping statistics during the 2011 season, but his sheer size is something the Eagles should seriously consider.
The Eagles' defensive line and defense as a whole is not very big, especially in the front seven, but the addition of Poe would rectify that immediately.
Mark Barron (SS, Alabama)
The Eagles don't need a whole lot of help at corner, but they could use help at both of the safety spots. Another member of the Crimson Tide could help with this need as well.
Mark Barron seems to have it all if you're the Eagles.
At 6'2", 218 pounds, he is a big safety with good instincts in coverage and is not afraid to step into the box for run support. In coverage, he's a playmaker and is always around the ball.
Barron has been categorized as "ball hawk" despite only grabbing two interceptions in 2011. The main reason why he only had two was because teams mostly steered clear of him.
Antonio Allen (SS, South Carolina)
Another option for the Eagles at strong safety is Antonio Allen from South Carolina.
Allen is another guy that has good instincts in coverage and is not afraid of helping out against the run. He recorded 81 tackles in 2011 and was voted Second Team All-SEC.
George Iloka (FS, Boise State)
If the Eagles continue to go defense into the second round, look for them to tab George Iloka from Boise State.
Iloka looks like a wide receiver in the secondary at almost 6'4".
Because of his size, he seems to be a guy that will be a steal in the draft no matter where he goes.
His size also gives him versatility as teams could use him as an outside linebacker in certain formations and packages.
With his size and athleticism, Iloka is the kind of guy defensive coordinators will love because of the different things they could do with him.
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