Philadelphia Eagles: Projecting the Eagles' Depth Chart Before 2011 Draft
Usually the first step Andy Reid and Howie Roseman take after the season is determining the needs after looking at the depth chart. Reid would determine where the team is lacking in talent, and the Eagles go from there.
Though the Eagles draft the best player available, they have two major needs on the team, fixing the offensive line and finding a right cornerback alongside Asante Samuel.
This Eagles team will look extremely different when opening day comes around because of the draft and free agency, where the Eagles look to be aggressive in both.
So, let's take a look at how I view the Eagles' depth chart heading into the 2011 NFL Draft:
QB: 1. Michael Vick; 2. Kevin Kolb; 3. Michael Kafka
Michael Vick made the jump to actually becoming a starting quarterback. With Atlanta, if the first option was not there for Vick, he automatically tried to gain yards with his legs. In Philadelphia, Vick finally learned to look at his second and third options.
Vick made the correct decisions on most plays and was particularly effective throwing on the run.
Vick will continue to improve as he will go into the season guaranteed the starter unlike last year, when he had to practice with the second teamers in training camp.
He is currently a top 10 quarterback in the league, but I would not be surprised if people start to call him an elite QB.
Backing up Vick could be Kevin Kolb. Kolb though is expected to be traded.
Even if trades are not allowed before the draft, it has been reported that the Eagles would be willing to trade him for 2012 picks. In this situation, the Eagles could acquire even more picks.
If Kolb does remain in Philadelphia, he would be the best backups in all of football. He may not have the strongest arm, but he is accurate and was a good decision maker in the pocket. Though he does not have Michael Vick elusiveness, Kolb showed he was a pretty mobile quarterback. With great weapons surrounding him, Kolb could be a top quarterback.
If Kolb is traded, the Eagles would have Mike Kafka as backup.
Kafka will be only 24 years old at the start of next season and will enter his second year in the NFL.
He was drafted in the fourth round of 2010 NFL draft. A few draft experts, including Mel Kiper Jr., rated Kafka as the fifth best quarterback in last year's class.
In the preseason with the Eagles, Kafka struggled, though. Only in the Chiefs game did Kafka show his smart, savvy quarterbacking skills. In that game, he had 115.2 passer rating and threw for a touchdown.
In a poll I conducted a month ago, I asked Eagle fans if Kafka was ready to become backup to Vick. Out of the 406 votes, 51% voted yes.
RB: 1. LeSean McCoy; 2. Jerome Harrison; 3. Eldra Buckley
LeSean McCoy ascended to stardom last season as the team's featured back. Though I might have Eagle bias, I consider McCoy the third best back in the league only behind Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson.
McCoy may not have elite speed, but he has good enough agility to break open huge gains. He can run with power and run over safeties. He may have some of the best hands for a running back in all of football.
McCoy caught 78 balls last season and was one of Vick's top targets when he was pressured.
When he came out of Pittsburgh, McCoy's blocking skills were poor, but last season the Eagles trusted him greatly, and he responded in a great way. McCoy was physical and smart enough to understand complex blitz schemes.
The second-stringer is Jerome Harrison, who like Kolb is one of the best backups at running back. Harrison's downfall in Cleveland was his lack of blocking skills, but he showed his great explosiveness in limited playing time with the Eagles.
Harrison is a free agent and is expected to leave because he was underused in Philadelphia. Andy Reid had another great weapon in the arsenal, but he was almost never utilized.
Eldra Buckley is a decent option at running back, especially with his nice physical style of running. His lack of speed and explosiveness limits his potential. Buckley is valuable to the special teams.
FB: Owen Schmitt
When Leonard Weaver went down with a ACL injury in Week 1, Schmitt came in and played well.
He was a nice find for Howie Roseman, as he was a strong lead blocker. Schmitt may not be a great ball carrier, but he is an adequate enough pass catcher out of the backfield.
Unless Weaver miraculously returns from his career-threatening knee injury, Schmitt should be a solid fullback for the next couple years.
WR: 1. DeSean Jackson, 2. Jeremy Maclin, 3. Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Chad Hall
DeSean Jackson is the most electrifying wide receiver in the game.
His 4.35 speed and uncanny ability to beat the defense deep almost two to three times a game usually wins a couple of games for the Eagles.
Scouts tea-bagged Jackson, calling him too small to make an impact on offense. Since then, Jackson has had a chip on his shoulder, making sure to prove every team that doubted him wrong.
DeSean Jackson's talents allows the offense to be elite.
This reason is more of a follow-up on the previous slide. LeSean McCoy at running back sees huge lanes with Jackson drawing coverage to him.
Safeties play as far as 20 yards back to keep all the plays in front of them, opening up running lanes for Michael Vick as well.
Because of Jackson's elite playmaking skills and speed, teams focus on him much more than they do with Maclin.
Jeremy Maclin is no slouch though. He is consistent even though he does not get the same recognition as Jackson. Maclin is one half of arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league.
The knock on Maclin coming out of Missouri was his hands, but he has shown a constant improvement. He is not asked to run fly patterns, but he has the speed to beat any corner in the league.
Jason Avant may be the best slot receiver in the league. He can catch any pass even in a tight window. He may not have game-changing speed, but Avant will make the tough third-down catch. In fact last season, it seemed like he would drop easy pass and catch all the tough ones.
Riley Cooper caught a key pass in the playoff loss against the Packers and could eventually take over as a slot receiver and could be a great red zone option because of his height (6'5'').
Cooper is a great special teamer and has great hands.
Chad Hall may be a longshot, but I think Andy Reid will eventually fall in love with him. Look for Hall to be a Danny Woodhead type of a player next season. Hall can do everything well on the field.
TE: 1. Brent Celek; 2. Clay Harbor
Brent Celek's production dramatically took a tumble last season. With Vick under center, Celek was asked too block much more than in his breakout season. Celek though struggled as a blocker and those struggles carried over to catching passes.
Celek led the Eagles in drops and seemingly dropped every ball thrown in tight windows or even when he was open. He was not a reliable threat a quarterback could depend on.
Harbor had a nice rookie season as the backup. Though he was a average blocker, he showed nice strides throughout the year.
He is a fluid athlete that could be a difference maker in the red zone. Harbor has solid speed for a tight end, and it would not surprise me if Harbor was starting mid way through the year.
LT: 1. Jason Peters; 2. King Dunlap; 3. Austin Howard
Jason Peters can finally take the overrated tag off of him. He is one of the best left tackles in all of football, and is quick on his feet and finally showed consistency.
Peters worked hard last offseason and played well up to par.
The two backups at tackle are King Dunlap, who performed well at left tackle against the Falcons, and project Austin Howard, who has great potential, even if he struggled against DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys.
RT: 1. Winston Justice; 2. King Dunlap; 3. Austin Howard
Winston Justice protected Michael Vick's blindside last season, but really regressed from his breakout season two years ago.
Justice was expected to take the next step in his progression, but was overpowered for most of the year.
Justice uses his finesse and technique to protect, but did not play up to his new contract. He was even benched in the Eagles playoff loss, which says a lot about Andy Reid's trust in him.
LG: 1. Todd Herremans; 2. Max Jean-Gilles; 3. Nick Cole; 4. Reggie Wells
Todd Herremans may be the team's most underrated and consistent offensive lineman. He is not great in all facets, but is solid, which makes him one of the better guards.
Herremans has to take less penalties though.
Behind him are three players who are free agents this offseason. I expect the Eagles to sign two of the three from the list of Max Jean-Gillies, Nick Cole, and Reggie Wells.
Jean-Gilles was the starter at right guard, but wildly inconsistent. He did not show any improvement from the previous year.
Cole was on and off the starter at guard, but like Jean-Gilles, he was inconsistent.
The Eagles sent a late round pick to the Cardinals for Reggie Wells, who turned out to be invisible for the season.
RG: 1. Mike McGlynn; 2. Max Jean-Gilles; 3. Nick Cole; 4. Reggie Wells
Mike McGlynn came on after Jamaal Jackson's season-ending surgery in Week 1. Though he had growing pains at center, McGlynn proved to be a decent offensive lineman, that was competent enough to call out blitzes.
He does have to improve in that are of pre-snap reads.
McGlynn will probably move over to guard if Jackson comes back healthy, which he is expected to do so.
McGlynn would be moving to his more natural position.
C: 1. Jamaal Jackson; 2. Mike McGlynn; 3. Nick Cole
I always though Jammal Jackson at center was a little bit overrated.
Wow, was I wrong.
Since Jamaal Jackson's injury against the Broncos two years ago, this Eagles offensive line has played poorly. Though Mike McGlynn performed admirably at Center this season, he may be best suited to play Guard.
Jackson showed he completed and led this offensive line.
Jackson was the glue to the offensive line, and will be an integral part of the Eagles offensive line success in 2011.
RDE: 1. Trent Cole; 2. Darryl Tapp; 3. Phillip Hunt
Cole almost always starts off the season in great form. By mid-season this season, people considered Cole a possible defensive player of the year candidate, that's how dominant he was rushing the passer, and unlike most defensive ends, stuffing the run.
Trent Cole will have to condition better in the offseason because seemingly every year he cannot maintain his incredible first-half production.
Cole may be the most important star who has to improve because he is vital to the defense. Without him rushing the passer, the secondary and linebackers are exposed.
Darryl Tapp had a nice season as a situational pass rusher, but the Eagles probably expected a little more from him. I think a telling sign was when Brandon Graham went down with the injury, Tapp could not seize the starting job from Juque Parker.
Philadelphia signed Phillip Hunt to a three year deal after his breakout season where he had a league high 16 sacks in the CFL.
Hunt is very similar to Brandon Graham, as both use their low center of gravity to drive the tackle back. Both have great motors and a quick first step, but unlike Graham, Hunt has long arms, which he can use in open field tackles.
LDE: 1. Brandon Graham; 2. Juque Parker; 3: Daniel Teo-Nesheim; 4. Ricky Sapp
Hopefully, Defensive End Brandon Graham can make a full recovery from his torn ACL.
Graham has to fight to win a starting job though, something he did not do last season when he was pretty much given the position.
Initially, Graham performed like an undersized DE, outmatched by the offensive lineman. Later in the year, Graham began to show why he was the 13th overall pick in the draft.
When he played well, he provided a good pass-rush and was a perfect complement to Trent Cole.
Without Graham Graham in the lineup, Cole struggled mightily.
Juque Parker is a nice situational guy, but he cannot be starting anymore. Parker's body wore down late in the year, which contributed to the Eagles lack of a pass rush.
Daniel Teo-Nesheim looks to be a bust. He was not given that much playing time, but he could not use any pass rushing moves to get the quarterback. Since he is an undersized end, Teo-Nesheim must use his leverage to get to the quarterback, something he could not do last season.
Many draft experts thought Sapp could make a difference rushing the passer.
Most even had him going in Round 2, but he struggled during his final season at Clemson, dramatically killing his draft stock.
The Eagles got a steal with Sapp as a fifth-round pick.
Now, with the accomplished defensive line coach, Jim Washburn, on the staff, look for Sapp to become a force as a situational pass-rusher. Washburn may be the perfect guy to motivate Sapp to play up-to-par like he did in his junior year.
DT: 1. Mike Patterson; 2. Brodrick Bunkley; 3. Antonio Dixon; 4. Trevor Laws
Mike Patterson does not offer much rushing the passer, but he is a solid run clogger, that fits what the Eagles do on defense.
He is an aggressive player and could fit into Jim Washburn's scheme very well.
Brodrick Bunkley has been a bust to many, after being drafted in the mid first round in 2006. I think this is the year Bunkley finally breaks out though.
He is finally playing a system that will fit his strengths. Bunkley is a quick, penetrating defensive tackle that would excel under Washburn. Keep in mind, Bunkley will be playing in the same system this upcoming season as in college at Florida State.
Antonio Dixon performed very well and was the key player that turned around the defense early in the year last season. Dixon is a great run stopping defensive tackle, but like Patterson, he does not offer much in pass rushing.
I think the key question is if Dixon will fit what Washburn looks for in his defensive tackles. Dixon does not play with as much leverage as Bunkley and Patterson.
Trevor Laws was almost considered a bust, until his solid play last season. Though unspectacular, Laws made a few plays, which is what you want from your backup defensive tackle. Look for him to excel with Washburn.
ROLB: 1. Ernie Sims; 2. Keenan Clayton; 3. Akeem Jordan
Where do we start with Ernie Sims? He was expected to make an impact as a speedy, playmaking linebacker, but Sims did not make any plays. In fact, it seemed he was a liability on the field.
Sims overpursued the ball every play, which cost the defense. He could not cover, even though he has great athleticism and speed, and seemed to always go for the big hit, rather than wrapping up the ball carrier.
Keenan Clayton is the former safety turned linebacker, who has major upside. Clayton could be the Ernie Sims of a few years ago, when he was one of the best weakside linebackers in football. Clayton has the speed and fluidity to be a solid weakside player.
Clayton could make an impact for a team lacking depth at linebacker.
Akeem Jordan is a free agent and is not expected to come back. Jordan is an aggressive player, but could not stay on the field. Jordan regressed considerably from last year.
LOLB: 1. Stewart Bradley; 2. Moise Fokou; 3. Rashad Jeanty; 4. Omar Gaither
Stewart Bradley played very poor football at middle linebacker last season. After his injury, Jamar Chaney performed even better than Bradley.
Bradley came off a serious knee injury, and it showed on the field. He lacked the speed and instincts to be an effective middle linebacker. With another year to recover, Bradley could be back to form. Strongside linbacker has always been Bradley's natural position.
Moise Fokou is an improving player, but he has just not made enough plays for the team to be considered for the job again. Fokou struggles in pass coverage, but is solid in defending the run.
Rashad Jeanty was signed over from the Bengals, and he could be an underrated signing for the Eagles. Jeanty has always been aggressive player, something the Eagles love out of their linebackers, and he could fit in as a utility linebacker.
Omar Gaither is a free agent and like Jordan, he is not expected to return. Gaither was a nice late round pick by Andy Reid, and he has always shown enough versatility to make the team. He can play all three linebacker spots.
MLB: 1. Jamar Chaney; 2. Stewart Bradley; 3. Omar Gaither
Jamar Chaney was one of the better middle linebackers and he only started a few games.
He did make mistakes, like any rookie, but for the most part, he showed his immense potential. Chaney is a fundamentally sound tackler, who is aggressive around the ball. He can cover and has great speed and can even blitz.
Chaney could make the jump to being considered one of the best in the business if he continues with his great work ethic.
CB: 1. Asante Samuel; 1. Dmitri Patterson; 2. Joselio Hanson; 3. Trevard Lindley
Asante Samuel is the best playmaking corner in the league. He is a ball-hawk and can read the quarterback at ease. Samuel takes chances, but no one is as successful as him.
He was one of the least targeted corners in the league last season and understandably so. Samuel still struggles in tackling, but with the amount of interceptions Samuel has, the Eagles are content with him.
Dmitri Patterson was better than fans gave him credit for. He was torched in a couple games, but he performed better down the stretch against the Cowboys and the Packers in the playoffs.
Patterson is a physical corner who can press very well. He does not have top line speed, but his solid coverage skills mirrors that flaw. Patterson would fit as a nickel or dime, but as a starter, he may not have what it takes to play on the outside.
Joselio Hanson is a physical corner who can occasionally make a play, but he is overpaid as only a nickel CB.
Trevard Lindley is an intriguing player because he has long arms and can press at the line, but he will have to develop better coverage and ball skills to have a shot at a job opposite of Samuel.
FS: 1. Nate Allen; 2. Kurt Coleman
Nate Allen made a few plays early in the season last year, but for the most part, he went through rookie pains. Allen was caught flat-footed many times, but with solid technique, it could be a fixable flaw.
Allen has incredible range and solid speed for a free safety. He still though has to be a better tackler.
Kurt Coleman is more of a strong safety, but last season he filled in nicely for Allen, when he went down with an injury.
Coleman may have limited upside, but he is a great third safety. He can solidly cover, blitz, and defend the run.
SS: 1. Quintin Mikell; 2. Kurt Coleman; 3. Colt Anderson
Mikell is a 30 year-old safety and an unrestricted free agent.
Mikell had 88 tackles and three interceptions this past season, solid numbers for a strong safety, but regressed considerably from the previous years.
He looked slow in coverage, many times was caught flat-footed, and though his strength was against the run, he sometimes was caught in traffic where he unable to make a tackle.
Mikell has lost most of his range and cannot cover the entire field.
The Eagles will most likely offer him a one year deal.
Colt Anderson is a great special teams player and played a considerable amount down the stretch. Anderson is more of a liability when he steps on the field for defense.
K: David Akers; P: Sav Rocca; LS: Jon Dorenbos
Though Akers struggled in the playoff loss, missing two out of three field goals, he is still one of the best kickers in the league. His range may be decreasing, but he is accurate and clutch.
Sav Rocca had his best season in his career in the NFL since coming over from Australian football. Hopefully he will continue to improve.
Dorenbos is the long snapper, nothing really more to say there.
KR/PR: Gerald Lawson
Finding a kickoff returner will be less of a priority, with the NFL moving the kickoffs to the 35 yard line.
Lawson showed a potential late last season and could fill in as both kick and punt returner.
DeSean Jackson will eventually be removed from punt returning duties, to focus more on being a complete receiver.
The Eagles depth chart will look dramatically different from this one, especially with the draft and free agency yet to take place.
The Eagles have multiple needs they need to address.