It was a defensive draft, but the Eagles made some surprising selections that not only made me scratch my head, but moreover step back and look at the broader scope of the situation.
I'm not talking strictly defense either.
I can see some significant changes coming on both sides of the ball, but let's take a look at what the Eagles have done and what it might mean for the 2010 season.
No Offensive Lineman in the 2010 Draft or Free Agency?
The Eagles did not draft one offensive lineman, an enigma that is almost unimaginable in the Andy Reid era. It does tell us that he has full confidence in the incumbent group of Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Nick Cole, Stacy Andrews, and Winston Justice.
One thing Reid has always done is put together a quality offensive line.
Fans shouldn't doubt him there.
A lot was made of the offensive line's inefficiency when Jamaal Jackson went down. Nick Cole took the blame as he took over at center, but Cole was playing fine all year. It was Stacy Andrews who was having a hard time adjusting to the guard position when Cole shifted to center.
Andrews didn't assimilate quickly enough.
But now Andrews is fully recovered from his ACL surgery. He has played on his reconstructed knee and is prepared for a full camp and preseason at right guard. I expect him to resurface as the mauler he was in Cincinnati.
The Eagles did sign a pair of undrafted Andy Reid prototypes in Jeraill McCuller from NC State (6'6", 325 pounds) and Austin Howard from Northern Iowa (6'7", 333 pounds). The Eagles also signed Zipp Duncan from Kentucky, a versatile but undersized lineman.
Zipp could get a look at the center position (as depth).
The reality for McCuller, Howard, and Duncan is they will have to really impress to earn a spot anywhere on this depth chart. They are the kind of player that the Eagles could stash on the practice squad until they iron out their plans for the future.
All things considered, I believe the offensive line is strong despite being criticized as suspect. This year will tell us a lot, but the talent is there, and the Eagles as an organization do not appear overly concerned.
No Quick, Shifty Speed Backs, All Power Runners?
I cannot believe this trend that I have witnessed. The Eagles acquired a power back in Mike Bell during free agency and yet another bruiser by draft in Charles Scott. They also already have Leonard Weaver.
Under Reid, the Eagles have never had this much muscle in the backfield.
LeSean McCoy and Weaver's spots are locked up, and the Eagles typically keep four backs on the roster. The remaining backfield contingency is crowded, but as I see it, there are only a few real candidates.
Mike Bell, Charles Scott, Eldra Buckley, Martell Mallett, Keith Flemming, Dwayne Wright and Chris Zardas are all vying for one of the two available roster spots. We can trim this list down to the most viable prospects with just Bell, Scott, Buckley, and possibly Mallett.
Buckley stood out on special teams in 2009, but Bell and Scott are both apt to contribute. Mallett, the CFL's 2009 rookie of the year, is more of an Andy Reid prototype back.
No matter which way we make the bed, the Eagles will have a more powerful running game, and they may be inclined to lean on it as Kevin Kolb is getting broken in.
If I were to forecast the four backs to make this post-camp roster, I would say McCoy, Weaver, Bell, and Scott. That's not a typical Andy Reid backfield. It's certainly not Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter, Lorenzo Booker, and Dan Klecko.
It's possible that the Eagles stash Scott on IR for 2010 and let Bell play out his one-year contract, or they could release Bell and keep either Buckley or Mallett, in which case I would expect Buckley to stay.
No matter, this is going to be a much more bruising backfield.
Bringing in Some Big and Tall Receivers
The Eagles brought back Hank Baskett (6'4"), drafted Riley Cooper (6'3") from Florida, and signed Pat Simonds (6'6") from Colgate. There is no doubt that Andy loves his speedy players (we all do), but there is a time and place for big, tall players too.
One or two of the aforementioned trio of redwoods will make this team. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant are secure, but the Eagles will likely keep two more receivers on the active roster.
I would tend to think that it will be Baskett and Cooper as four and five, but Simonds is more than just a skyscraper at 6'6". He accounted for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Colgate and hauled in 14 touchdowns as a senior.
Jordan Norwood, Dobson Collins, Chad Hall, Blue Cooper, and Kevin Jurovich round out the competition at receiver. A couple of these guys will clear waivers and find a home on the practice squad.
Is the Defense Fully Retooled Post-Draft?
In many ways the defense is retooled, but the secondary still doesn't feel completely addressed. I will take a closer look at that later.
The Eagles selected three of the fastest linebackers in the draft, including the fastest in Jamar Chaney. They also traded draft picks to acquire some very interesting veterans.
The versatile and aforementioned MIKE, Jamar Chaney, is over 240 pounds and ran in the 4.5 range during his Combine workout. Keenan Clayton and Ernie Sims (former ninth overall selection) are undersized speedsters but are perfect fits for WILL linebacker in the Eagles' scheme (three-down coverage linebacker).
I presume Ricky Sapp will make the conversion to SAM, but I also think Alex Hall is another interesting newcomer that will surprise many fans with his long, thick build and fast-paced play.
The Eagles really made moves to aggressively acquire linebackers that can fly all over the field.
They also built a base of front-four pass rushers by draft and by trade. Darryl Tapp, Brandon Graham, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, and possibly Ricky Sapp are the prototypical, stout, high-motor edge rushers for the Eagles' defensive scheme.
I think the way this front four is now built, we will see pressure more reminiscent of Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney-Robert Mathis scheme—something that will feature more line stunts and a "stop the run on the way to the quarterback" edge-rushing mentality.
The front seven is exciting but won't likely have room for last season's starter Juqua Parker, who played very well under challenging circumstances.
I Can Still Imagine One More Deal
If it doesn't happen soon, I don't think it will happen, but consider this:
The Eagles addressed the secondary with two versatile defensive backs. By free agency they added a versatile, oft-injured, and former first-round selection in Marlin Jackson. By draft they added a versatile top-tier prospect in Nate Allen.
The presence of Allen permits Macho Harris and Marlin Jackson the opportunity to make their return and impact at nickel corner or safety. They also drafted and signed two clutch playmakers in Trevard Lindley from Kentucky and David Pender from Purdue.
Both Pender and Lindley may lack the physical presence of Sheldon Brown, but the secondary was not that bad in the first place, to be fair. It is currently cornered by the same tandem that held their own for the Patriots during their championship runs.
The Eagles also addressed the secondary with Dick Jauron—not to be understated.
But I can't help but feel that the Eagles would be more than willing to take an opportunity to trade Mike Vick and possibly a 2011 draft choice for a talented young cornerback if available.
Jeff Garcia could be a solid reserve and mentor to these young quarterbacks—Kevin Kolb and his evil twin brother Mike Kafka.
I'm not on the phones for the front office, so I can't accurately speculate what teams may be on the market for a quarterback while being in possession of a young coveted corner. But without considering total feasibility, the Eagles could send Vick, our 2011 first or second round pick, and Ellis Hobbs/Joselio Hanson to the Bills for the young phenom Jairus Byrd.
It's not over yet.
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