NFL: Top 5 Positions the Philadelphia Eagles Need to Upgrade
The 2010-2011 season saw the Eagles exceed the expectations of many. After trading franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb to division rival Washington, it was the beginning of the Kevin Kolb era in Philadelphia. Many saw the Eagles as a .500 team with an outside shot of getting a Wild Card spot in the playoffs.
Isn't it funny how the season started in Philadelphia against the Green Bay Packers and also ended against that very same team in the playoffs? In the season opener, Clay Matthews chased down Kevin Kolb on a roll-out and tackled him, Kolb's head going straight into the ground.
With Kolb suffering from concussion symptoms, Michael Vick was put into the game and almost led the Eagles back to a win.
Vick would remain the starting quarterback for the rest of the season (though he missed a few games with a rib injury). Vick's career had been revitalized.
We saw a glimpse of what Vick can do at the QB position. He no longer solely relies on his legs to do all the work as he as become more accustomed to sitting in the pocket and going through his reads.
Only when he could find nobody open would he take off and try to make a play with his legs.
The Eagles face a good deal of question marks this offseason, however, with a good number of free agents set to hit the market. So whether its by the draft or free agency (if/when there is one), there are several positions at which the Eagles need to get better.
FS Nate Allen had a very good rookie season before a season-ending injury.
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Rookie free safety Nate Allen had a superb season for the Philadelphia Eagles. He takes over for the legend, the icon, Brian Dawkins.
Tough shoes to fill, but Allen showed the Philly faithful that he is more than ready to step up and become a top safety in the National Football League. His status heading into next season is a little cloudy after suffering his season-ending injury. He has said, however, that he will be ready to go.
Strong safety Quintin Mikell has quietly put together several solid seasons. He's a very underrated defensive player with good instincts, and he is a solid tackler. He is headed for free agency and the word around town is that the Eagles will let him go.
Rookie Kurt Coleman out of Ohio State was a solid backup and did some good things during the playing time he received. He took over after Nate Allen went down with an injury and played as well as you could expect from a rookie who is thrust into the majority of playing time.
He's small but plays very big. I like his guts and his grit. He's not afraid to attack the ball and made several good plays at the end of the year.
Outside of these three, the safety position is lacking in both talent and experience. Last year, the Eagles signed CB/S Marlin Jackson to bring depth to those positions. He suffered yet another injury and missed the entire season.
He'll be back this year, but can he stay healthy? That's been the biggest question about Jackson.
So if the Eagles are going to let Mikell go, safety is going to be a big need.
Will LB Stewart Bradley be back in 2011?
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All signs point to the Eagles bringing back Stewart Bradley. They have put a second-round tender on Bradley, meaning that if he signs with another team and the Eagles do not match, Philadelphia will receive a second-round draft choice.
One option is to move Bradley to outside linebacker so they can keep Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker. Chaney took over for the injured Bradley late in the season and did a fairly good job for a kid who was thrust into the lineup due to an injury.
The Eagles acquired Ernie Sims from the Detroit Lions in the hopes that his speed and tenacity would help restore a hurting linebacker group that has been on the downswing as of late. Sims was a bust, plain and simple. He was a liability in coverage and just didn't live up to the expectations.
Akeem Jordan (free agent) and Moises Fokou are two young guys who have seen an increase in time and have displayed the ability to contribute at a high level and deserve their roster spots on the team. Jordan was in and out of the starting lineup and was replaced by Fokou at the SAM.
There is a lot of youth at this position. With that youth, though, is talent. These guys just need to keep developing.
On the other hand, in Bradley's case, can he stay healthy to play an entire season? He's a monster in the run game. His coverage skills have dropped due to his ACL injury, but he'll be another year removed from that. Maybe switching him to outside backer will help.
There are some good linebackers out there in the draft. There are guys who Philadelphia can find in the second and third rounds who can come in and challenge for spots and make contributions in the future.
3. Defensive End
DE Trent Cole is among the league's best pass rushers. But he needs help.
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Trent Cole has been a nightmare for opposing offenses since he was drafted. He always gets off to a great start to the season, but tends to drop off over the second half. This is usually because teams can double-team him because the Eagles don't have another top-tier guy coming from the other side.
Juqua Parker has continued to be a serviceable defensive end during his years in Philly, but he's just not that game-changer that the Eagles need to complement Trent Cole. Plus, Parker isn't getting any younger. He's been the starter, but how much longer can he hold up?
The Eagles acquired DE Darryl Tapp from the Seattle Seahawks for Chris Clemons. Tapp was a situational pass rusher who showed flashes of being a solid contributor. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim hasn't progressed like coaches expected and didn't play much at all.
Victor Abiamiri was thought of as the guy who could complement Trent Cole when he was drafted out of Notre Dame several years ago. His inability to stay healthy has hampered his NFL career. He'll again try to regain his spot on defense and show the coaches he can be that guy.
Same goes for Brandon Graham, their first-round draft choice of a year ago. He didn't have the immediate impact everyone had hoped he would, and then ended up going on injured-reserve. Tough loss for the Eagles, and a tough break for a kid who was getting into a groove. Once he's fully recovered, having Jim Washburn to coach him up will be the best thing to happen to him.
There are some solid pass rushers available at the No. 23 spot, but will the Eagles decide to take one there? I wouldn't count on it, but you never know what Andy Reid and the Eagles are going to do on draft day.
2. Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle
The O-Line was good, but they could be a lot better.
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Jason Peters was rock solid over the course of the year. Todd Herremans battled foot problems and played as well as he could. Jamaal Jackson went down in the Green Bay game and was lost for the season. Mike McGlynn filled in and did an admirable job at center. Winston Justice had started the year just fine, but ended up getting benched in the playoff loss to Green Bay.
It's the right guard position that was critiqued and analyzed the most and is seen as the biggest need on the offensive line.
If you're an Eagles fan, you know how much Andy Reid likes to build from the inside out, on both sides of the ball. Reid loves big, athletic linemen. Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles manned the right guard spot, but just weren't dominating enough to warrant their 100 percent return to the team next season. Both are free agents.
Even though Justice is still penned in as the starter at right tackle, he needs to have a superb offseason and training camp to prove that he can protect Vick's blind side. There were too many instances where blitzers came free and rushers got by on the right side and resulted in Vick being either sacked or at least hit.
This year's draft is full of talent and depth along the offensive line. If the Eagles feel they can solidify another position in the first round, they will. You can be sure that Reid will find his guy(s) in the middle rounds.
CB Asante Samuel led the team in INTs, but he needs a complement on the other side.
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Asante Samuel has been nothing but a Pro Bowl player since he signed with the Eagles. He led the team in interceptions again this season and prove he can be a game-changer at his position. His tackling will always be questioned, but there's no denying his ability to read a quarterback and step in front and take the ball for a touchdown.
Ellis Hobbs started out as the starting corner for the Eagles, but suffered a serious neck injury that could result in him retiring from football. But even when Hobbs was on the field, his play had declined as he had given up far too many touchdown passes.
Dimitri Patterson took over, but it was still the same results—too many touchdown passes. Patterson had a fine 2009-2010 season, but seemed to take a step back as a full-time starter.
Joselio Hanson has always been a pretty solid nickel corner. He's a bit smaller, but he's a great tackler and makes good reads on the ball.
Rookie Trevard Lindley played sparingly, but during his time on the field, he showed signs of becoming a starting-caliber corner in the future.
The Eagles need a star at this position. They need someone who can step in right away and become that game-changer alongside Asante Samuel. They need a bigger, physical corner who can play right on the line of scrimmage and challenge opposing receivers.
It'd be great to go after Nnamdi Asomugha from Oakland, but if there's no free agency, it's going to have to come through the draft. There are a couple top-tier guys, but they'll have to trade up to draft them.