2012 NFL Draft Preview: Will the Philadelphia Eagles Turn to Defense in Round 1?
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In 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles (the Vince Young labeled "Dream Team") had one of the most disappointing seasons in recent-Philadelphia history. In 2012, the Eagles will turn to the NFL Draft for help.
All eyes point to defense.
Last year, the Eagles signed defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, wide receiver Steve Smith, Young and the biggest fish of them all, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
While Babin and Jenkins were well worth the money, Asomugha struggled to fit in. In Oakland, Asomugha was never challenged. With the Eagles, quarterbacks often challenged him in 2011, and he had his share of struggles. Give Asomugha credit though, he played the slot corner position often in 2011, something he had never previously done.
New defensive coordinator Juan Castillo struggled early in his transition from offensive line coach. But, as the season wore on, Castillo’s unit improved, and he adjusted well to problems that were plaguing the team early in the season.
Defensive line coach Jim Washburn employed the wide-9 technique with his linemen and while the team did rack up the sacks, their linebackers’ struggled to fill the holes created with the scheme.
The Eagles appear to have fixed their need for a middle linebacker, trading a mid-round pick to Houston for DeMeco Ryans. Ryans is a natural fit for the middle linebacker position in the 4-3. His escalating salary was another reason Houston felt the need to deal him.
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Much of the Eagles’ success in 2012 will depend on quarterback Michael Vick. Vick was spectacular in 2010, but had his issues with turnovers in 2011. Which Vick will we see this fall?
Losing Jason Peters right before the team was to report for offseason workouts was a blow to the Eagles. Signing Demetress Bell in free agency should alleviate those concerns in the short-term.
The Eagles offensive line was considered a question mark before last season but eventually became an outstanding unit. All the starters have returned with the exception of Peters.
The Eagles won their last four games in 2011 and have done a good job in free agency thus far. Bringing in Ryans while also re-signing guard Evan Mathis were good moves.
Entering the draft which positions will the Eagles target?
The Eagles selected Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round in 2011. The hope was to pair him with 2010 second-round pick Nate Allen. Allen has had trouble staying on the field at free safety.
Jarrett seemed to be a bit of a reach for the Eagles, but they’ve had so much success with second and third-round picks in the past, it appeared to be a solid move. Jarrett played in 12 games in 2011, starting two. He didn’t force a turnover.
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It isn’t time to give up on Jarrett, but the Eagles could target the safety position. If Mark Barron of Alabama falls to the Eagles at No. 15, he should be taken. The Cowboys are rumored to be very interested in Barron and they select one spot before the Eagles.
The Eagles could wait until the third round to target a player such as Brandon Taylor of LSU. Taylor was a good player at LSU and is solid in all areas. He is stout against the run but sometimes struggles in coverage.
The Eagles selected Brian Rolle in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. While several other Eagles’ linebackers struggled last year, Rolle wasn’t one of them. Rolle appears to be a nice player to build around at weak-side linebacker.
Akeem Jordan was solid in 2011 when he was moved to the strong side, but is he the team’s answer?
Lavonte David of Nebraska would be an ideal fit for the Eagles in the second round. He is a relentless, sideline-to-sideline defender with good instincts. David is good in coverage and would be good in the Eagles’ scheme.
Zach Brown of North Carolina lacks David’s overall talent but is strong in coverage. He will be available in Round 2.
The Eagles often struggled against the run in 2011, but much of that was due to the team’s lack of familiarity with the scheme.
Cullen Jenkins was very good. He can play inside or outside in the Eagles’ scheme. Mike Patterson was his usual solid self in 2011, despite a serious health concern in training camp. Derek Landri is back, but the Eagles need some size on their front-four.
Picking at No. 15, the Eagles will be in a good position to get one of the draft’s top defensive tackles.
Fletcher Cox is considered by many to be the top defensive tackle in this class. But, will he be available at No. 15? According to some, the Eagles have considered moving into the top 10 in order to get Cox.
If the Eagles stay at No. 15, Michael Brockers of LSU or Dontari Poe of Memphis could be options. Brockers is young, having entered the draft after his sophomore season. His best football is ahead of him.
Poe would be an interesting selection. Could Washburn compare Poe’s immense physical talents to his former pupil Albert Haynesworth? Sure, we know of Haynesworth’s off-field issues, but, at one time, he was a premier defensive tackle.
Fortunately for the Eagles, they have no pressing needs and can go with the best-player-available philosophy, which has worked out well for them in the past.
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