The Philadelphia Eagles and the 2010 NFL Draft
Andy Reid watched as his team was picked apart and exposed on national television for the second consecutive week by the Dallas Cowboys. Many will call for Donovan McNabb to be traded, Reid to be fired, or most likely both.
The fans will want the team to go out and raid the free agent market for a quick fix to what they believe the Eagles' woes are. However, the only way that this team is going to get fixed and back to its frequent NFC Championship game appearances is through the draft.
The following are my thoughts about the Eagles' biggest weaknesses, as well as how they could be fixed through the draft.
Pre-Draft Decisions: Attempt Some Trades
The Eagles, whether they will admit it or not, are going to need to rebuild. To do so, they will need draft picks. The only way to get some good draft picks is to part with talent. Most people want to see Donovan McNabb traded, but most teams are not going to be lining up for him now.
With that in mind, they should look to trade Brian Westbrook. Westbrook is coming off an injury plagued season that saw all of his usual touches go to LeSean McCoy, Leonard Weaver, and the receiving corps.
After Westbrook was concussed against the Redskins, the Eagles went 7-1 without him, showing that this offense no longer needs him to put up big numbers. In addition it showed that McCoy an Weaver are more than capable of being a good ground attack without the help of Westbrook.
In my mind the Eagles take almost anything pick-wise for the injury-riddled Westbrook, because when he did play he did not do very much and did not have very many plays called his way.
Pre-Draft Decisions: Attempt Some Trades
With Michael Vick most likely not returning next season, that leaves the Eagles with McNabb and Kevin Kolb. It is rumored that Kolb is upset and wants out because he has not gotten a fair shot. I do not blame him.
Nonetheless, Kolb is the most valuable commodity that I would be willing to give up since it would not be creating yet another hole in the team like trading Sheldon Brown would. Kolb is relatively young, showed good promise when he knew he was starting and had all week to work with the first team, and could help an NFL team.
The Eagles need to cut ties with their former second round pick, after all his contract expires next year with McNabb's and it would be best to get something for him now than nothing at all next season. Any draft picks you get in return could be used to pickup a quarterback or improve the team. Besides, they could always just sign a backup through free agency.
Weakness: The Linebacking Corps
The preseason loss of Stewart Bradley to a torn ACL was a loss the Eagles never recovered from. They had a revolving door at middle linebacker all season, and experienced a great degree of uncertainty and inconsistency at the other two spots, which prompted the acquisition of Will Witherspoon from the St. Louis Rams.
Bradley was poised for a breakout year, and all throughout training camp before the injury the Eagles coaching staff was split about whether it was Bradley or DeSean Jackson who was the most improved. In addition, the Eagles inability to stop the run played a large part in their losses to the Cowboys, so the linebacker position is in serious need of an upgrade.
Repair: Sean Weatherspoon
With Bradley coming back from knee surgery, he will not be as explosive or dominant as he was during 2008. Thus, all three linebacker spots could use an upgrade. That being said, many people think Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes will be the selection the Eagles make, due to his versatility and ability to play inside or outside linebacker. However, odds are Spikes will be off the board by the time the Eagles pick in the first round.
With that in mind, and the fact that the Eagles love Bradley in the middle, they should look to the outside for linebacker upgrades. The Eagles cannot go wrong with Sean Weatherspoon from Missouri, Sergio Kindle from Texas, or Jerry Hughes from TCU.
All things being considered, if the Eagles took any of those three in the first round they would step in and start instantly.
That being said, if they took Weatherspoon with that first pick, they would not only get a tackling machine with a great work ethic, but also a linebacker with the versatility to cover running backs and tight ends, as well as rush the passer. In addition, he has an excellent nose for the football and is always around the ball. His motor and style of play will quickly make him a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
When the Eagles' front office let Brian Dawkins go, the city and its fans wept. Ever since, the void at free safety was evident all season and especially so against the Cowboys. The combination of Macho Harris, Sean Jones, and Quintin Demps failed to produce a clear cut starter to fill that void, and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott needed to adjust his schemes due to this hole at free safety.
Repair: Chad Jones
The Eagles need an enforcer at safety to fill the void left by Brian Dawkins. A two-sport athlete at LSU, Jones plays physical and is definitely not afraid to come up and support the run or come on a blitz. Jones possesses good sideline to sideline speed and is usually in on a tackle regardless of where it is on the field. He, like Weatherspoon, would quickly become a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
Weakness: Offensive Line
During the preseason, dreams of "The Great Wall" of an offensive line ran rampant in the Philadelphia area. The acquisitions of Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews to go along with Jamaal Jackson and Shawn Andrews had fans picturing the best Eagles offensive line ever.
Well, 22 weeks later and we are left looking at a terrible mistake. Every projected starter on the o-line missed some sort of time with injuries except for Jamaal Jackson (until week 16 when he tore his ACL).
The only two projected starters from the preseason that played in the final two games against the Cowboys were Jason "turnstile" Peters, and Todd Herremans. Winston Justice emerged as the right tackle of the future, but with Jackson's ACL tear, both Andrews brothers' injury histories and Peters' ineffectiveness, combined with the fact that all of them are aging rapidly, this line will need to be retooled.
Repair: Draft an SEC Lineman
Going into free agency for lineman turned out to be a large mistake for the Eagles. In addition, they now have Jason Peters locked up for $10.5 million a season through 2014. Due to that, the drafting of a tackle with the presence of Peters and Winston Justice would be useless, unless they find a way to unload Peters.
Due to this, and the relatively weak class of centers, the Eagles should look to upgrade at guard. Odds are, the top guard Mike Iupati from Idaho will be off the board by the time the Eagles select in the first round. That being said, there are a good collection of early round guards to select from.
In terms of this second-third round group, the Eagles should look long and hard at Alabama guard Mike Johnson. He appeared in every game during his four years in Tuscaloosa, and helped pave the way for Mark Ingram to win the Heisman. At 6'5", 305 lb, and playing against SEC defenses for the greater part of his career, Johnson would be an excellent pick for the Birds and could slot in at LG bumping Todd Herremans into the RG slot.
If they somehow get rid of Jason Peters, they could go and draft LT Ciron Black, a 6'5" 322 lb mammoth four-year starter at LSU.
Weakness: Defensive End
Trent Cole is just an animal at RE, and consistently explodes off the snap and passes right around the opposing LT frequently. However, due to the lack of help he gets from his fellow defensive linemen in terms creating a pass rush, Cole frequently gets double-teamed and is then taken out of the game.
The dominant Eagle defense of old was able to scare people with just their four-man pass rush, and was able to just through wave after wave of defensive line depth at the opponent. But with Juqua Parker and Victor Abiamiri opposite Cole, they are not scaring any offensive coordinators in the NFL.
Repair: Greg Hardy
A superior athlete and part of the D-line that garnished Ole Miss such high preseason expectations, Greg Hardy would be an excellent early round pick. Compared by scouts to Julius Peppers, seeing Hardy line up opposite of Trent Cole on the defensive line would instantly give the Eagles a very scary pass rushing duo.
The only concern with Hardy is his right foot, which he has had surgery on twice for stress fractures and will likely receive extensive examination at the combine. I do not believe Hardy will be a first-round pick due to his foot and his slightly worse stats his senior year, but picking him in the second round would be a steal.
Donovan McNabb has been the best quarterback in Eagles history. Period. His career touchdown to interception ratio of 2.16 is the third best all time, trailing Tom Brady and Steve Young, and ahead of Peyton Manning. He has thrown for 32,873 yards and 216 touchdowns, while rushing for another 3,249 yards and 28 touchdowns.
That being said, Donovan is 33, has a tendency to not set his feet when he throws which results in his infamous bounce passes and air balls to receivers that Eagles fans have come to expect. He has one year left on his contract, as does backup Kevin Kolb.
There are rumors that Kolb wants out of Philadelphia because he has not been given a fair shot at starting. Factor in that Michael Vick will likely not be back next season, the Eagles are seeing their quarterback situation teetering towards utter disaster.
Repair: Tony Pike
The Eagles need to address their quarterback concerns through the draft, but it is not as big of a concern as other areas. For all the fans who think the Eagles can just trade McNabb away to any team: the Chicago Bears sprung for Jay Cutler. Every other team that needs a quarterback will look to find one in the draft. The only way I see a contender taking McNabb is if Brett Favre retires (again) and the Vikings come calling for Donovan.
As for who to draft, Colt McCoy's ability to run and throw would be nice to have, but the Eagles have more pressing needs that could be addressed in the first round. They could go for the 6'6" Tony Pike out of Cincinnati, continuing the Eagles history of drafting Bearcat players (Trent Cole, Brent Celek). Pike showed that he is quite capable of throwing the football, and this quality would fit well with Andy Reid's pass-happy system.
Keep in mind that most of these players shown are projected to be late-first rounders to third or fourth-rounders on draft day by ESPN and Nflscout.com. Hardy and Weatherspoon are the most likely to be in the first round, with Weatherspoon more likely due to Hardy's medical questions.
With that in mind, Chad Jones and Hardy are likely second round picks, while Pike and Johnson will be third or fourth round.
Let me know what you think in the comments.