There are three days left until the 75th annual NFL Draft. The closer it gets, the higher the anticipation is for me. Despite all of the mock drafts and debates occurring, nobody knows what the Philadelphia Eagles are going to do.
It’s been almost two weeks since the departure of quarterback Donovan McNabb. That trade symbolizes one of the biggest “changing of the guard” offseasons I have ever seen.
Most people believe the Eagles are rebuilding. Their front office rebukes that term. They are simply re-tooling and staying competitive. No matter how it is viewed, the Birds have made many changes to become younger.
Speaking of changes, there are three things the Eagles to address next weekend: Their talent level, depth, and philosophy. Andy Reid and Co have quite a few holes to fill on their roster, but they have enough ammunition to address these needs.
When you look at the team’s talent level, the Eagles have playmakers on both sides of the ball despite the many departures this off season. One offense, you have guys like DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, and Leonard Weaver. On defense, there’s Trent Cole and—even though he could tackle better—Asante Samuel.
Having said that, defensive back Macho Harris and linebacker Moise Fokou should never have been mentioned as part of the starting lineup. Not only were they rookies, they were mid and late round picks (fifth and seventh rounds to be exact). It’s a lot to ask even first round talent to be productive in their first year.
This is what happens when you a) Don’t properly address a void after losing a player via trade or free agency or b). acquire a player (Chris Gocong) who never fit your system in the first place.
The Eagles must do everything in their power to get the best players possible that not only are playmakers, but also fit their style of play. They can’t afford to overlook any possibilities because they’re confident in the guys they have.
If there’s one positive about Harris and Fokou having to start in 2009, it’s knowing that they’ve gain a lot of experience during their crash course. If they’re replaced in the starting lineup, they’ll still provide quality depth.
The same could be said about offensive lineman Nick Cole and linebacker Akeem Jordan. These guys can play, but their respective positions can be improved on. This would only make the team as a whole better.
The Indianapolis Colts reached Super Bowl XLIV without starters Anthony Gonzalez, Bob Sanders, and Marlin Jackson (welcome to Philly). This was made possible because they prepared Pierre Garcon, Melvin Bullitt, and Jerraud Powers were able to step right in and make a positive impact.
This is the type of depth the Eagles need to be serious contenders again. Players like King Dunlap, Mike McGlynn and Joe Mays have to be better prepared to step in when called upon. If not, they need to be replaced.
The domino effects caused when Stewart Bradley and Shawn Andrews were placed on injured reserved shouldn’t happen again. Todd Herremans shouldn’t have to move from guard to tackle when Jason Peters gets hurt because Dunlap can’t be trusted. No team should have to resort to bringing Jeremiah Trotter back from two year hiatus and expect him to successfully handle starting at middle linebacker.
Look at receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, tight end Brent Celek, offensive tackle Winston Justice, and running back LeSean McCoy. These are prime examples of taking advantage of opportunities when they’re presented.
They’re the reasons the Eagles could afford to stop holding out hope for guys like Reggie Brown, L.J. Smith, Kevin Curtis, and Shawn Andrews. Now they just have to make sure their backups are in place. Imagine if any of these “young guns” got injured.
The last thing the Eagles have to adjust is their philosophy on the field. For 11 years, Andy Reid had one constant security blanket: “No matter the flaws I have, No. 5 will give us a chance to win.” That mindset can no longer be utilized.
On offense, whether they pass less or not the Eagles have to get better at sustaining drives. That’s one thing Kevin Kolb has proven he can do. Reid and Marty Mornhinweg must take full advantage of this.
On defense, getting turnovers is nice but constantly getting off field due to ‘three and outs’ is just as lovely. You can’t do this by relying on the blitz. The sooner the Eagles establish a consistent four man pass rush the better. It’s easy to forget how the Minnesota Vikings kept the New Orleans Saints offense on the sideline the majority of the NFC Championship.
Most importantly, Reid needs to make sure the players he acquires will flourish under his system. There have been too many wasted picks and time spent on failed experiments (Bryan Smith, Tony Hunt, Jeremy Bloom, Jack Ikegwonu, etc.). The Eagles need guys who’ll fit in and who can contribute in 2010.
Talent, depth, and philosophy. How one category is addressed has an effect on the next one. In a little over a week, the Eagles will have an 80 man roster in place. We’ll find out if the team is rebuilding or retooling by their actions.
This sounds like a lot to ask for, but it’s far from impossible to become a reality.