Rebuilding the Dream in PhiladelphiaFollow @NFLDraftShow
After a flurry of additions in the wake of the NFL's lockout, the Philadelphia Eagles were one of the favorites for the Super Bowl in 2011. Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie seemed to fill in big holes in the secondary, while defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins would build up a defensive line that needed to put more pressure on the quarterback.
But the team faltered in the early going, burying themselves in a 1-4 hole from which they could not recover. The lack of preparation in the offseason particularly hurt the Eagles as they attempted to install a new scheme with many new players under coordinator Juan Castillo. Head coach Andy Reid received heavy criticism for making Castillo, the team's longtime offensive line coach, a defensive coordinator despite no coaching experience on that side of the ball.
Despite a host of problems, the team has potential to build upon. The offense boasts one of the league's top running backs in LeSean McCoy, a solid group of wide receivers and an improving offensive line. Quarterback Michael Vick has flashes of brilliance when he is healthy. And the defense has some of the best defensive ends and cornerbacks in football. With some adjustments in 2012, Philadelphia could easily return to the playoffs.
With defense as a focus, the Eagles will look to the draft to try to rebuild the "dream team" in 2012. There are several positions that desperately need to add talent.
Philadelphia's linebackers were nothing short of terrible in 2011. Fourth round pick Casey Matthews was a disappointment after being named the starting middle linebacker in the preseason. This forced outside linebacker Jamar Chaney into the middle, a position he is much less comfortable with. Outside, the team started Akeem Jordan and Brian Rolle in the later part of the season. Both are backups at best. The team needs to address the linebacker issue in the offseason, and the draft would be a good way to set the unit up for the future. Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly may fit right into the team's plans, as he is projected to be selected right around the Eagles' 15th overall pick.
The team has great talent at the cornerback position with Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Rodgers-Cromartie, and even if one is traded in the offseason, Joselio Hanson is very serviceable as a slot corner. But the play at the safety position was brutal this past season. Part of the problem was the slow recovery of free safety Nate Allen from knee surgery, and the team hopes that a full offseason will bring him back to full strength. But Kurt Coleman was completely outmatched at strong safety, and 2011 second round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett barely saw the field due to his struggles in pass coverage. The team may be reluctant to admit they wasted a high pick on Jarrett, but they need safety help in 2012. If they decide to pass on Kuechly or cannot get him, Mark Barron of Alabama could get a look. Markelle Martin from Oklahoma State or Harrison Smith from Notre Dame could be on the board for the Eagles' two second round picks.
The Eagles' pass rush was solid in 2011, with ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole performing very well in the wide-nine scheme of defensive line coach Jim Washburn. The scheme puts more pressure on the tackles and linebackers to defend the run, however, and the Eagles' run defense performed very poorly. The linebackers were a big problem, but Philadelphia could use help at the tackle position as well. Jenkins played well, and Patterson held his own, but more depth in the middle would definitely help the Eagles. Josh Chapman from Alabama could be an option if the Eagles want to use one of their two second round picks on a defensive lineman.
: Eagle’s RB LeSean McCoy could benefit from a more stout offensive line
Philadelphia's offensive line has been a concern for years now, but surprised some by outperforming expectations in 2011. While Michael Vick did suffer injuries, they resulted more from his playing style than they did from poor protection. And Shady McCoy's breakout season was aided by a solid push up front. Tackles Jason Peters and Todd Herremans have been very strong. But like the defensive tackle position, depth is important. The Eagles suffered greatly when their starters were injured, and there are still question marks at guard with Evan Mathis and second year man Danny Watkins. A couple of extra linemen would give Andy Reid and offensive line coach Howard Mudd options up front. Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler could be a second round option.
The fan favorite – Vick – won’t be around forever in Philadelphia
Andy Reid may opt to look for a veteran backup to replace Michael Vick, but if the Eagles see talent on the board, a quarterback is not out of the question. The guaranteed portion of Vick's contract ends after this coming season, and Mike Kafka does not appear to be considered the quarterback of the future. This leaves the Eagles potentially changing things up within a couple of years, and Reid may start to look for his next quarterback now. Russell Wilson of Wisconsin may fit the Eagles scheme and could be available in the middle rounds.
The Eagles have the advantage of having two second round picks and two fourth round picks, giving them the flexibility to fill in big holes while adding depth. They also will have potential trade pieces in wide receiver DeSean Jackson (should they franchise him) and cornerback Asante Samuel, both of whom could bring in more picks. A few crafty moves in the draft and free agency could put the Eagles right back into contention.
Dan Smith is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and is the Executive Editor of ComRadio. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Dan Smith is the Executive Editor of ComRadio. He is also a producer for the Centre County Report. Dan is from West Chester, PA. He has broadcasted and written about many Penn State sports for ComRadio, including football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and softball. He has interned at 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia.