A lot of really good things happened for the Eagles in 2010, especially on offense. The obvious highlight was the play of Michael Vick, who looked superhuman at times. Overshadowed by his performances was the play of LeSean McCoy who took a huge step towards being an elite running back in the league.
On defense, believe it or not, there were some highlights. Prior to getting hurt, Brandon Graham was quietly having a very solid season. The same goes for Nate Allen.
But, there are a lot of holes to be filled.
The offensive line, especially the right side, was a travesty in 2010. Winston Justice took a step back at right tackle and to make matters worse, the right guard spot was a rotating door all season.
Michael Vick cannot survive another season taking the beating he took last season. Very few, if any, QBs could. Being a left handed passer, the right side is absolutely crucial to keep Vick upright.
A name that hasn’t been discussed much but would be a very viable option is Carl Nicks of New Orleans. The Saints have several upcoming free agents to deal with on the offensive line and Nicks could likely be the one who ends up leaving to collect a nice paycheck.
Of course, there’s also the NFL Draft. After watching the 2011 Senior Bowl, I’ve become smitten with right guard Danny Watkins from Baylor. I’ve since watched some Baylor games from this past season and he looks like someone who will be an absolute stud. He’s athletic, uses his arms well, and has a true nasty streak to him. Howard Mudd could turn him into an elite guard in the NFL.
Similarly, Lee Ziembe of Stanford is a very interesting prospect. He was continuously touted as one of the best tackles in his conference and I see the same intangibles in him that I see in Watkins.
Should the Eagles be interested in adding a center, Mike Pouncey of Florida is a top prospect that could still be available by the time the Eagles pick at 23rd overall.
Needless to say, our defense needs work. There are some guys who you can build around, but there aren’t many. This will not be quick fix, but there are options for the Eagles to explore.
The obvious answer is cornerback Nnamdi Asomogua from Oakland. People who look at the numbers will be unimpressed with him because he doesn’t force many turnovers. However, that is simply because teams will not throw to him. He is, in my mind, the best defensive back in the game right now, but because of contract incentives that he didn’t reach, his contract with the Raiders has been voided.
Joe Banner recently stated that the contract ties with Asante Samuel would not necessarily keep them from signing another premiere defensive back. Someone else who might be a free agent is Antonio Cromartie from the Jets. Cromartie fell on some hard times in San Diego but had a decent year in New York. He is certainly someone whom the Eagles could be interested in.
At 23, the Eagles won’t be able to nab a guy like Prince Amukamara or Patrick Peterson. However, they will likely have a shot at Curtis Brown from Texas. Brown reminds me very much of a former Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown and the similarities go beyond the last name. Curtis Brown is not the flashy kind of corner that most fans notice. He is, however, the definition of a shutdown corner. Teams rarely threw his way which explains his incredibly low interception statistics. However, as well all know, the numbers lie in football. Brown provided a very physical presence for the Longhorns and could be a welcome addition for the Eagles defensive backfield.
Let’s be frank here. The Ernie Sims experiment was a failure. Touted by many (I include myself here) as one of the steals of the 2010 offseason, Sims proved to be an over-hyped (again, I count myself) bust. While he provided some excitement in training camp with several devastating hits, it never translated to the field. More often than not, he looked confused and out of place as he consistently over pursued his angles.
Stewart Bradley would look like a true stud at times and look even worse than Sims other times. There were, however, a few bright spots.
Moise Fokou took a positive step forward as an outside linebacker. Even more positive was the play of Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker in the last few weeks of the season. His high level of play could allow Bradley to move to his natural position of SAM linebacker in 2011.
However, there is no doubt that linebacker is once again a need for the Eagles. They simply weren’t good enough in 2010, and it cost them dearly at times. The free agency pool is relatively dry at the position and even if there were a high profile free agent, the Eagles likely wouldn’t pursue them. I’m not calling the front office cheap. They just don’t go after big name free agents at the linebacker position. I don’t have an answer as to why that is.
In the draft, there isn’t much to choose from. This is one of the weaker linebacking classes in the past few years. However, Akeem Ayers of UCLA is a prospect that is climbing up the “big boards” around the league. Arguably the most physically talented linebacker in the draft, Ayers could play in both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme. As it stands there is only one clear cut first round pick in this class and that is Von Miller who will most certainly be selected in the top 10.
Let me clear the air here. I am a huge Brandon Graham fan. I know the casual fan who just looks at the numbers was disappointed in Graham’s production in 2010 but numbers lie. However, the biggest problem is his torn ACL. Andy Reid has gone on record saying that it’d be a “stretch” for Graham to be ready by the season opener this year. As such, the Eagles need a replacement, because without Graham the pass rush simply died. Trent Cole is good but he can’t do it alone.
Free agency offers a familiar face in Jason Babin. The former first round pick by the Houston Texans was a role player with the Eagles in 2009 before moving onto the Tennessee where he put together a Pro Bowl season under the coaching of Jim Wasburn.
Now, Washburn is in Philly and Babin’s a free agent to be when the CBA is worked out. Babin has stated that Washburn is without a doubt the reason for his Pro Bowl 2010 season so he could certainly be drawn back to Philly.
Another name is Ray Edwards, the defensive end from Minnesota. Edwards has benefited from playing opposite of Jared Allen and alongside Kevin and Pat Williams but he certainly has the talent to be a solid rotational player on this defense.
Personally, I am opposed to selecting another defensive end with a high draft pick. However, should that be what the Eagles are looking to do (unlikely in my opinion), Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue is a man that could be available to them. Kerrigan reminds me a lot of a guy like Jared Allen (please note, this is not a prediction of how good he will be) and could provide for a nasty third punch in the Eagles’ defensive end rotation.
Another possibility is local Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson is a huge presence along the line and could excel as a run stuffing end.
Wait, what?!?!? Quarterback? Surely, I’m off my rocker. No, surely I am not. By the end of the season there wasn’t a bigger believer in Michael Vick than I. I was on that bandwagon and it’d be impossible to get me off barring a completely meltdown by number seven.
However, as impressive as Vick was, he also gave the Eagles plenty of reasons to be cautious, evidenced by him only getting a one year deal with the franchise tag. Vick’s durability is the major question, and as a result, the backup quarterback position becomes something that needs to be an absolute strength on the team.
For the moment, it is. Kevin Kolb, even given little ample time, has proven he can have success in this league. However, once the CBA is worked out, I firmly believe Kolb will be traded. That would then leave second-year man Mike Kafka as the backup. What was a strength would instantly become a liability.
There won’t be much in the free agent pool during the offseason but one man the Eagles could possibly acquire is Matt Hasselback of the Seahawks. It’s unlikely the Seahawks will keep him around so it’s entirely possible they could look to ship him out, possibly in a trade for Kolb.
While I consider quarterback a need, I don’t expect the Eagle to use a high pick on anyone this year. The big names are Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, and Jake Locker; none of whom impress me all that much. They might turn into fine players but none strike me as a man worthy of first round pick.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that two, possibly all three, of them will be gone by the time the Eagles pick. I expect the Eagles to be looking for players in the later rounds and one such player could be Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is a very raw prospect however his stock is currently sky rocketing. It’s entirely possible he could find himself being a high round draft pick and will be long gone by the time the Eagles look to take a quarterback. However, should be available in the middle rounds I can easily see him being a guy that the Eagles will jump all over.
Andy Dalton of TCU is another very interesting player. Dalton has a very nice touch on his throws and was a natural leader at TCU. His upside is tremendous and Andy Reid and company could turn him into a special player.
All in all, the Eagles do have some major holes to fill, the most dire of which can be filled very successfully if the Eagles play the eventual free agency and the NFL Draft correctly. Obviously, the issues revolving around the Collective Bargaining Agreement throw things off for free agency but, with ten draft picks, the Eagles are primed to make some franchise changing moves in the 2011 Draft.