The Philadelphia Eagles need help on defense, and a lot of it.
This is uncharacteristic of the Eagles. For years, Jim Johnson's defenses would crush the competition. Now, the Eagles are in an unfamiliar situation. It seems as if every position could use an upgrade. Safety, linebacker, left-side defensive end, and cornerback all need help.
Linebacker Stewart Bradley will return from his torn ACL this year. He should help the weak linebacking core that, at one point in 2009, had Jeremiah Trotter and Will Witherspoon starting. Both players have now been cut.
The Eagles also signed veteran defensive back Marlin Jackson to a two-year deal earlier in the offseason.
Jackson was previously a cornerback for the Colts and recorded back-to-back, 80-plus tackle seasons in 2006 and 2007. His production dropped off a bit in 2008, and he tore his ACL during a practice in 2009. The Eagles hope he will be able to compete for the starting free safety position when the season begins.
Most recently, the Eagles traded for Ernie Sims.
This trade could really affect the Eagles selection. The Eagles desperately needed a linebacker, and Ernie Sims is a pretty good one. In four years of NFL football, Sims has averaged 105 tackles per season, including three straight, 100-plus tackle seasons in 2006-2008. He is an impact linebacker who should really help the Eagles' defense.
Getting those three guys helps the Eagles a bit, but there are still some major holes on this Eagles defense. The Birds are going to have to make some good decisions come Thursday.
The Eagles first round pick could be just about anyone. While the Eagles do really need defense, they need help on the offensive line, too.
Jamaal Jackson was a rock at center before tearing his ACL late in the regular season. Despite making the Pro Bowl, Jason Peters was a bit of a disappointment. He always seemed to be nicked-up. Stacy Andrews was a similar case. And please don't even make me bring up his brother. That lunatic gives me a headache just thinking about him.
So the question remains, what are the Eagles going to do with their 24th overall pick come Thursday?
Although I feel that a left-side pass rusher would do wonders for Trent Cole and the rest of the Eagles defense, the Eagles need a safety. Marlin Jackson could be a good backup at safety, but his natural position is corner.
Tennessee’s Eric Berry is hands down the best safety in the draft this year.
There is no way the Eagles could draft him without trading up. Earl Thomas from Texas and Taylor Mays from USC are two very talented safeties. Earl Thomas is better in coverage, while Taylor Mays is an incredible athlete who really knows how to deliver a hit. Another safety has been flying under the radar—University of Southern Florida's Nate Allen.
So which one?
To draft Earl Thomas, the Eagles would probably have to trade up to at least pick 20 to get him, because here is little chance that the Texans would pass on him with the 20th overall pick. He is a ballhawk who can make big plays and is great in coverage. His main weakness is his small frame.
Taylor Mays is a risk. He has so much potential and could really be something special in the NFL. His raw athleticism is keeping him in the first round. He has poor ball skills and is not good in coverage. He will most likely be a strong safety in the NFL.
Nate Allen is another ballhawk. He isn't even close to Mays' athleticism, but he can make plays. He picked off five passes in '09. He has also recorded 80 or more tackles in his college career twice.
As an Eagles fan, I'm still sore about Brian Dawkins. It killed me to watch Quinten Demps and Victor "Macho" Harris try to fill in for Dawk. They just couldn't do it. This Eagles secondary needs a safety badly. They can't continue with their current secondary. They need a young player to build a secondary around.
My choice for the Eagles is Earl Thomas.
He can do it all. He has great ball skills and will make plays for any team he plays for. Not only that, he can hit. He isn't an Asante-tackler. He knows how to help in run support. They may need to trade up to do it, but I believe that Thomas is worth it.
The Eagles have been rumored to want to move up in the draft to take a safety. Make it happen Birds.