Philadelphia Eagles: 6 Biggest Concerns Heading into the 2011 Season
Due to the lockout, free agency and the trade market have yet to open, and as a result, many teams still have holes to fill.
Keeping in mind that the Eagles still have a chance to boost the weak spots on their roster, here are six of the biggest concerns that they face going into the new season.
Apart from Asante Samuel, the cornerback position was one of the Eagles defense's biggest weaknesses last season.
Although the Eagles addressed their future needs with the drafting of Utah State's Curtis Marsh in the third round, they still are in desperate need of a starter at right cornerback.
Ellis Hobbs' neck injury ensures that he won't return as an Eagle. The minuscule Joselio Hanson is far better suited for the nickel position, and Trevard Lindley still has a ways to develop before he takes the field as a starter.
Thus, the Eagles are left to rely on free agency or the trade market to find their next starting right cornerback. If they don't, a rough season will be in store for the Eagles defense.
Last season, second-round pick Nate Allen showed promise, but had his season cut short by suffering a torn platellar tendon in his right knee.
In addition, longtime strong safety starter Quintin Mikell looks to be on the outs after the Eagles drafted Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. Mikell just finished the final year of his contract and has passed the age of 30, an apparent death sentence in Philadelphia of late.
So, the most likely starting lineup for 2011 will consist of a recovering second-year player in Nate Allen, and a rookie who has not been given the chance to work out with his teammates. Rough times could be ahead.
The Offensive Line
Last season, the Eagles' offensive line gave up 49 sacks, good for fourth worst in the NFL. They addressed that need this offseason with the hiring of legendary offensive line coach Howard Mudd and the drafting of first-round pick Danny Watkins.
However, there will be a period of adjustment that the offensive line must undergo. The young Mike McGlynn is still acclimating to his role as the starting center and right tackle Winston Justice must use his third and final chance with the organization to find a level of consistency.
Although the right guard position will be shored up, thanks to Watkins, the Eagles still have a long way to go before their offensive line reaches elite status.
The linebacker position is in the midst of a massive overhaul. Former starting WILL backer Ernie Sims will be gone as soon as the free-agency bell is rung.
Backups Akeem Jordan and Omar Gaither are also on the chopping block now that their contracts have expired.
The Eagles focused heavily on the linebacker position throughout the draft, grabbing Oregon State's Casey Matthews in the fourth round, Ohio State's Brian Rolle in the sixth and UConn's Greg Lloyd in the seventh.
The starters at all three positions are currently up in the air, and there will more than likely be at least one rookie amongst the three. The Eagles will be left with a talented, but inexperienced group to start the season.
The Kicking Game
David Akers has seen his last days in an Eagles uniform after the team picked up Nebraska kicking phenomenon Alex Henery in the fourth round.
Not to take away anything from Alex Henery's impressive level of talent, but he could be in for a rough year. Due to the NFL lockout, Henery has so far been unable to use the offseason to develop a rhythm with long snapper Jon Dorenbos and holder Sav Rocca, who are an integral part of the kicking game.
If the lockout persists, not only will Henery be thrust unceremoniously into the spotlight in Week 1, but he will have to find a rhythm with his new teammates on the fly, which is not an easy task for a young kicker.
Although Henery projects to be an impressive kicker in the long run, the current work stoppage may cause some costly growing pains during his rookie year.
Although he appears to be on the right path with his simplified defense philosophy, new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo could be in for a bumpy ride during his first year in charge.
As a first-time defensive coordinator, Castillo will have very little time to coordinate defensive schemes with his players due to the NFL lockout. He will also have to deal with a fair amount of rookies and, presumably, free-agent acquisitions in crucial positions.
Granted, his new defensive philosophy could be implemented seamlessly during a normal year, but the lockout throws a monkey wrench into his plans. He'll have to use the limited time he's given wisely if he expects to field a serviceable defense by Week 1.