Without Sheldon Brown, What Does It All Mean?

Leo PizziniAnalyst IJune 9, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Cornerback Sheldon Brown #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles stands on the field during the game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on September 17, 2006  in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Giants defeated the Eagles 30-24 in overtime.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

What does Sheldon Brown's OTA absence mean to the Eagles' 2009 regular season?

Andy Reid offered a comment that he wanted Brown at the OTAs, but continued further to say that Brown was working with his own agenda.  Reid added that the opportunity is good for the new and young cornerbacks to gain experience through repetitions. 

He did not comment on how Brown's absence ultimately figures into his 2009 game plan.

Sheldon Brown has offered no further comments on his disgruntlement or on his absolute intentions at this point in regards to his absence in the OTAs. 

First, note that Brown was within his contractual rights to stay home. 

Fellow cornerback Asante Samuel is not participating in the final week of the OTAs, either.

That aside, Brown looked to be in a proper state of mind to play football during the mandatory mini-camp.  He apologized to the fans and his teammates about his pre-draft outbursts, but the Eagles needed him at this OTA and his absence greatly discounts his apology.

I'm not going to knock Sheldon Brown's game as others have done since the bickering began (Brown Underrated?), but I will suggest that this latest upheaval is even more reminiscent of the 2008 Lito Sheppard season.

What Can Be Done?

The good news is that the potential of the other cornerbacks and the trade value of Sheldon Brown is more than noteworthy.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown get traded in a package that includes an Eagles' wide receiver or offensive lineman for a veteran at a needed position or a second or third round draft pick.

The Eagles will need to rid themselves of at least one quality receiver and offensive lineman by the start of the regular season.

If Brown goes in a trade prior to a disappointing season on the bench, his trade value will be much higher.  I know the Eagles do not like to have their hand forced by a player, but what one wants and what is best are often mutually exclusive events. 

If Brown comes in and plays the position the same way he has in the past, there is no better option in my opinion for the Eagles. 

Throwing Sheldon a bone would not be such a bad thing.

Worst-Case Scenario

Considering a worst-case scenario, Eagles' fans have to feel good about the prospects of Ikegwuonu, Hobbs, and Hanson as starting nickel and dime cornerbacks.

Hanson was fantastic in 2008, playing the outside cornerback in nickel packages.  Sheldon Brown covered the slot position in the nickel most of the time.

Hobbs was charged with surrendering a lot of touchdowns in New England, but he is unquestionably an improving, young, and talented cornerback with NFL game experience and big play making ability.

Ikegwuonu looks the part.  He played the part well in college, but we can only get a better feel for what he can do in the NFL after the Eagles strap up in full gear.

Trae Williams and Dimitri Patterson have also been around the league and may offer up some surprises when camp starts.

When it's all said and done, Eagles fans should feel very good about the defensive backfield regardless of the disposition of the Sheldon Brown conflict.

Final Thoughts

The OTAs are not much of a help to Sheldon.  If he is psychologically ready and continues his offseason conditioning, it's all good as far as his game is concerned. 

If Sheldon is not ready for this season with the Eagles, the young prospects may need to step their game up a bit.  

The youngsters are all more than capable and full of promise.

There is a little bit to worry about, but not much.  I am hopeful that Brown will play well for the Eagles, but if the coaching staff senses a diminished performance forthcoming—trade him now and bring in the new class.


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