Apr 26, 2010, 4:00 PM EST
The Eagles agreed the lack of pass rush was their most pressing need. How else do you explain them drafting three defensive ends, and a tackle described as a penetrator? After Trent Cole, they have serious problems putting pressure on quarterbacks with their front four, and the sheer number of picks dedicated to fixing it means they wanted to get it right.
Nobody will disagree when you say they didn't have to use three selections on that position. The problem is, end is one of the most difficult positions to project. Ideally Brandon Graham will be a Pro Bowler for years to come taken 13th overall, but first rounder Jerome McDougle was a massive bust, whereas Cole has developed into one of the best in the league as a hybrid player who fell to the fifth.
It makes sense they wanted to come out of the draft with multiple ends. For one, it's not as if the other guys on the roster are holding anybody back. We don't know what they'll get out of Darryl Tapp, Victor Abiamiri is on his way out the door, and Juqua Parker is what he is. Plus, you have to love the Ricky Sapp pick in the fifth. The guy was graded far higher than he went, and at that point in the draft, sometimes it's worth taking a chance on a player rather than simply choosing someone else because the position hasn't been addressed as much. That leads us into point number two.
The Eagles have assembled a collection of dynamic players in their secondary. Cornerback of the future was definitely a need, but several of the guys who were brought in are versatile enough that they can be moved around in an effort to hide their shortcomings.
Nate Allen, the presumed front runner to start at free safety, can also play corner. Macho Harris, as tough as his rookie season was at free safety, was a very effective CB in college and will have a year of experience under his belt. If Marlin Jackson's knees ever come around, he has a professional and collegiate background at both positions. Quintin Demps even dabbled in a little corner at Texas El-Paso.
Say what you want about any of those guys, and you'd probably be right on. It can't hurt to have that many players who are able to be moved around though. At the very least, they'll have the opportunity to confuse quarterbacks. With that many interchangeable parts, you can conceivably line up Jackson at corner, and Harris at safety, then have them switch assignments right before the ball is snapped.
Does that make up for losing a solid every-down corner? Probably not, but it creates plenty of new wrinkles for the defense to explore. And again, combined with what we hope will be a front four that is greatly improved at rushing the quarterback, it's entirely plausible they can hide an Ellis Hobbs out there, much the same way the Patriots were able to in '07. They scored a lot of points, and used complex schemes to hide their aging linebacker corps and mediocre secondary.
Unless they make a move in the next couple months, like signing Kevin Mawae for instance, it's clear the Eagles believe their center is already on the roster. On the surface, it would appear they are taking a big risk there, but it's much more calculated than that.
What we can pretty much all agree on is it won't be Jamaal Jackson, especially in the season's early stages. That seems to leave Nick Cole, Mike McGlynn, and A.Q. Shipley as the primary options to replace Jackson. Cole is a bit of a mixed bag. He filled in nicely at right guard most of the season, but he struggled when he was moved. Maybe with an off-season of preparation he would be fine there, but there's no guarantees the team won't need him at guard again. McGlynn, a fourth rounder in '08, remains a mystery after two seasons at the end of the depth chart.
The guy I want to focus on is A.Q. Shipley. True, he's just as much or greater of a question mark as anybody. Don't count him out as the potential starting center though. The Penn State grad and former seventh round pick was was honored as the best center in college football in '08. The main concern is whether he is big enough to make it at the pro level, but skill and intelligence apparently aren't the issues.
I don't think it's a reach at all to say he could be the man there next season. Obviously we'll have to wait and see what the coaches do, but it's not at all unusual for Reid's club to coach up low level prospects at that position. Both Jackson and previous starter Hank Fraley were undrafted free agents who came from small schools, and both turned into effective starters. A guy like Maurkice Pouncey would have been a nice, however probably unnecessary addition as long as they're able to keep plugging players like Shipley in there. Regardless, the Eagles are not panicking.
Mike Kafka sounds like the perfect backup quarterback for the West Coast offense. Doesn't have huge arm strength, but is described as a good decision maker who is accurate with short-to-midrange throws. The biggest drawback that I saw on National Football Post's scouting report is he struggles to go through his progressions, so you just have to hope he can be trained.
What I like about it is he doesn't look like he's ever expected to become a starter in the NFL. Why is that a good thing? Because Kolb shouldn't feel like he has to constantly look over his shoulder in his first full season as the starter, which may have been the case with a few of the other high profile quarterbacks in the draft. (At one point, I seriously thought the Eagles were going to wind up with Colt McCoy.) It also means, unless teams haven't learned the lessons of A.J. Feeley and Matt Cassel, he might be persuaded to stick around beyond his rookie contract.
The description of Kafka paints a picture of somebody who would become a game manager, not a future star. That's fine for a reserve QB.
- Surprised so many people thought they should address running back early. Mike Bell is an effective backup/power running back, and with Leonard Weaver expected to continue to contribute carries, there aren't many balls left to go around. Eldra Buckley is also a capable special teamer, so there wasn't a sense or urgency to find another back early in the draft.
- Again, surprised by the outcry caused from drafting a wide receiver in the later rounds. As of right now, they only have four of the typical five roster spots set at the position. Grabbing another receiver was inevitable.
- Trading their two third rounders to move up 11 spots in the first round and select Brandon Graham was fine. I would much rather they did that than use either of their second rounders, and they had more than enough firepower to move back into the third if they desired. As it was, they ended up having tons of fourth and fifth rounders, which is okay, plus they got the player they targeted.
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