The Biggest Questions for Philadelphia Eagles Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft
Just two months into Chip Kelly's tenure as the new head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, the roster has already changed dramatically from the 2012 team. That's a good thing, as the Eagles won just four games in 2012, including just once in the season's final three months.
Kelly has added a slew of free agents who will be given the opportunity to compete for a starting job, notably nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, linebacker Connor Barwin, cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips.
But that doesn't mean the rebuilding for the Eagles is complete. In fact, it's far from it. The Eagles have tons of holes on their roster; most of which will need to be answered during next month's draft.
With nine picks in the draft, including the fourth overall pick, the Eagles will be able to fill a lot of holes. The following slides will highlight five potential weaknesses on the current roster that will need to be addressed during April's draft.
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There's no question that the Eagles need to improve on the quarterback position before the 2013 season begins.
Veteran Michael Vick was re-signed to a one-year deal, but he's essentially a stopgap, given that he's shown he can no longer be a productive player in this league. Last year's rookie Nick Foles displayed potential in 2012, but he's a potential draft-day trade candidate. Former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon was signed because he is familiar with Kelly's offense, similar to Andy Reid and Doug Pederson in 1999.
With the NFL becoming more of a rookie quarterback league than ever before, the Eagles appear to be candidates to select a quarterback in one of the early rounds of the draft. It could be Geno Smith at number four, or it could be a quarterback like Ryan Nassib or E.J. Manuel early in the second round.
Or Kelly could decide that the quarterbacks on the current roster are good enough to survive the 2013 season.
2. Right Guard
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Other than quarterback, right guard is the biggest hole on the Eagles. Former first-round draft pick Danny Watkins has been ineffective during his two injury-plagued seasons in a Philadelphia uniform. There's a possibility that Watkins' career could be jump started under Kelly, but he's also going to be 29 years old during the 2013 season so it may be time to look in a different direction.
Alabama guard Chance Warmack is easily the best guard in the draft, but it's unlikely that he will be selected as high as the fourth overall pick. The Eagles could pick a guard in the middle rounds, or they could select a tackle and move veteran Todd Herremans back to his natural position of guard.
Either way, on draft day the Eagles are almost certain to come away with a starting offensive lineman for the 2013 team.
3. Nose Tackle
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Veteran nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga was signed by the Eagles on the first day of free agency, and it's expected that he will compete for a starting job on the defensive line.
But Sopoaga turns 32 at the start of next season, and he was largely ineffective in 2012, struggling against the run and as a pass-rusher.
The Eagles have not yet announced whether they will run a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense, but assuming they run a variation of the 3-4 defense, as most expect, they will need a solid nose tackle.
Star Lotulelei is a viable option with the fourth overall pick in the draft, as are some mid-round options. It's unlikely that the Eagles will open the 2013 season with Sopoaga as the starting nose tackle.
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The Eagles thought they were set for years at the cornerback position heading into 2011, with veterans Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel as the starters and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as an overqualified nickel corner.
It didn't exactly work out that way.
Samuel was traded before the 2012 season, and Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie are no longer on the team, with the former widely regarded as the biggest free-agent bust in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kelly immediately signed a pair of cornerbacks when free agency began, bringing in Bradley Fletcher from the St. Louis Rams and Cary Williams from the Baltimore Ravens. But Fletcher has struggled with injuries. and Williams, although very physical, was repeatedly torched in Baltimore last season.
The Eagles would be wise to select a cornerback near the top of the 2013 draft. Dee Milliner is the top prospect and is an option with the fourth overall pick. The Eagles could also add a mid-round pick to compete with Brandon Boykin for the nickel spot.
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Safety was arguably the weakest position on the 2012 Eagles. That's saying something, considering the terrible quality of play the Eagles turned in for the 16-game slate.
The Eagles signed Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips to compete for starting jobs in 2013, but both remain a question mark. Chung, a former second-round pick out of Oregon, never lived up to his potential as a member of the New England Patriots. Neither did Phillips, a 2008 first-round pick of the New York Giants, as he's struggled with injuries.
Adding a safety, likely in the second or third round, to compete with Chung and Phillips, and possibly Nate Allen, for playing time makes sense.