Without a doubt, the defense was the weak point of the Philadelphia Eagles last season. While a few talented players such as Asante Samuel and Trent Cole distinguished themselves from the pack, the overall performance of the defensive unit left much to be desired.
Needless to say, when draft day finally rolls around, you can bet that Andy Reid and the rest of the Eagles' front office will be focusing heavily on improving their defensive weak spots. Linebacker, right cornerback, safety depth, and the defensive line all require a boost.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five defensive prospects from the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft that are sure shots to provide a positive impact on the Philadelphia Eagles.
6'0, 205 Pounds
Projected Round: 3-4
Even though projected first-round pick Jimmy Smith's character concerns are fading away, the Eagles have a far more reliable option at cornerback available to them in the later rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Although not quite as big as his teammate at Colorado, Jalil Brown uses his 6'0" 205 pound frame very aggressively, drawing on his excellent tackling skills to deliver punishing blows.
Brown possesses all of the tools the NFL teams look for in a young cornerback: the body control to change directions quickly, enough speed to cover the deep ball and the strength to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. He manages to be effective in both running and passing situations.
With a season in the pros to develop his instincts and play recognition, Brown could easily slide into the right cornerback position for the Eagles. Plus, in the meantime, his tackling skills would come in very handy in Bobby April's special teams unit.
The Eagles have already hosted Brown for a workout in early April, so if the Eagles have not filled their cornerback needs by the third round, expect to hear his name called.
6'0, 198 pounds
Projected Round: 2-3
For depth at their safety position, the Eagles needn't look further than their own backyard. Temple's Jaiquawn Jarrett brings a physicality to the free safety position that harkens back to the days of Brian Dawkins. Jarrett possesses a nasty attitude and is right at home near the line of scrimmage.
You'll find no Ernie Sims-itis in this defensive prospect. Jarrett's superb instincts almost always prevent him from biting on a fake or play action.
Jarrett's relatively small frame keeps him from being mentioned among the top prospects of the 2011 NFL Draft. However, with the skill set that he possesses, Jarrett will likely only need to add a few pounds of muscle to be able to challenge for a starting job with the Eagles' uncertainty at safety.
6'2, 242 pounds
Projected Round: 2-3
With the Eagles in desperate need of a revamped linebacker corp, a good player for them to keep an eye on would be Washington's Mason Foster. The young player has been seeing a healthy draft stock increase lately, due to his apparent NFL-readiness.
Foster's dedication to studying game film over the years has certainly paid off, as the linebacker demonstrates great football instincts. That, coupled with his excellent pass coverage skills, would make him an invaluable addition to the Eagles' weakside linebacker position.
Foster has the speed and closing ability to always position himself around the ball. He is a good solid tackler as well, delivering enough of a pop to knock the ball loose on occasion.
If the Eagles manage to scoop him up with their late second round pick, Foster would have a very good chance at becoming a starting WILL linebacker from day one.
6'5, 305 pounds
Projected Round: 1-2
The Eagles have already showed a significant interest in upgrading their defensive line by kicking the tires on Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson. It's no secret that Andy Reid would love to give new defensive line coach Jim Washburn a new weapon for his rotation, and Wilkerson could be just what the Eagles need.
With a penchant for slipping through an opposing offensive line and attacking the runner, Wilkerson has the potential to be the big playmaking defensive tackle that the Eagles have been craving. He has day-one starter written all over him.
Currently, Wilkerson's technique is keeping him from being a mid-first round pick, but a prolific coach such as Washburn shouldn't have trouble working out the kinks. If a player such as Jimmy Smith isn't available at #23, Wilkerson would be a perfect pickup for the Eagles in the first round.
6'4, 256 pounds
Projected Round: 1
With great size, good instincts, sideline-to-sideline speed and solid tackling skills, Ayers could very well be the Eagles' SAM linebacker of the future. His performance in pass coverage is among the best in this year's linebacker class, with exceptional skill in covering tight ends and running backs.
Ayers has the ability to immediately step in as a three-down linebacker. His prolific pass-rushing ability has even caused ESPN's Mel Kiper to compare Ayers to future Hall of Fame linebacker Terrell Suggs.
As a first-round option for the Eagles, Ayers would be a solid, reliable choice with a big upside. With the current state of Philadelphia's linebacker corps, that makes for a very enticing option.