Sheldon Brown, Ellis Hobbs, and a Defense without a Leader
The sexiest draft of the Andy Reid era has come and gone.
The Philadelphia Eagles moved from the 21st to 19th overall pick to select Mizzou wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, a player most experts projected to go in the top 10.
With their second pick the team grabbed Brian Westbrook's heir apparent in Pitt's LeSean McCoy. The one addition that went unnoticed and may be the biggest of all was the addition of cornerback Ellis Hobbs.
That's right—that Ellis Hobbs.
The New England Patriots parted with their long-time starting corner after bolstering their secondary in the draft. Deemed expendable by the Bill Belichick front office, the Eagles obtained Hobbs for just two fifth-round picks.
Hobbs is aware of the situation he is entering.
"I heard rumors anyway that [the Eagles] were interested and things like that," Hobbs said. "I didn't have any expectations that something would shake this early."
The trade raises questions about disgruntled corner Sheldon Brown's future with the Eagles. He has demanded a trade, but was denied by the Eagles front office.
Brown sees the Hobbs trade as his ticket out of town.
"I think it's great," Brown said Sunday. "I look at it as great news in terms of me being traded."
In the meantime, Brown said he will attend the team's mandatory mini-camp.
If the Eagles decide to move Brown, Hobbs will likely become the starting corner next to fellow ex-Patriot Asante Samuel.
Still, Brown's discontent is unsettling. After signing with Denver at the start of free agency, fan-favorite Brian Dawkins predicted Brown would assume the leadership position on the defense.
"I believe Sheldon [Brown] will begin to step up and talk a lot more," Dawkins said in March. "I know he doesn't like to do that, but I think he will start to say more things in the locker room and on the field."
The city of Philadelphia had been spoiled with Dawkins. Since 1996, "Dawk" was the vocal and emotional leader for the defense, and in many ways the entire team. His departure was unexpected and left the team searching for answers.
With Dawkins gone and Brown grumbling, the defense is without a leader. A logical choice is middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. A third-round pick in 2007, Bradley led the team in tackles with 108 last season.
The only problem is that Bradley is one of the youngest starters on an already young squad.
In all likelihood, the defense will lead itself.
"I feel like, with us having a committee of people who can set examples, who can put people in the right place, that we can get the job done," safety Quintin Mikell said.
In March, Brown himself echoed Mikell's sentiment.
"I think leadership is overrated," he said. "Your work ethic is your leadership."
Clearly, things have changed since then.
All signs point to Brown being an Eagle in 2009. What is unclear is how he will impact a talented young unit looking to rebound after a poor performance in the NFC Championship game last season.
The Eagles' defense will find the answer sooner rather than later. If they want to make another run at the Super Bowl, the "D" will be paving the way.
Whether they will have a leader to show them the way remains to be seen.
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