The Eagles defense needs some serious help. They lack a player who opposing offenses fear and opposing offensive coordinators really have to game plan for. Asante Samuel can be tough to throw at, but he only plays one side. Put your better receivers on the opposite side, and it solves that problem.
Entering the 2011 season, all of Philadelphia will have their eyes on the Eagles defense. This isn’t just because of the way they played last season. It’s also because their under new management, former offensive line coach turned defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo.
The Castillo move has been highly criticized and he’s going to need to some talented players to execute any defensive game plan he puts together. There’s some talent on this defense already, but he’s going to need to add some game changers to really make strides from last season.
Here are some options he’ll have in this year’s draft.
5. Casey Matthews
Originally, I was planning on just sticking with first round targets. However, I’ve seen a lot of talk about the Eagles liking his style of play.
Of course, no matter what he does, Casey will continually be compared to his brother Clay. Odds are he won’t be the force that his brother is, but he can still be a very good player as “second best.”
The Eagles have shown repeatedly that the type of guys they like on defense are those “high motor” type players. Not necessarily the biggest or fastest players, but the guys who are relentless. The guys who will keep fighting until the whistle blows. The type of player who simply tries to outwork their opponent. This is the type of mindset that Casey Matthews has.
He’s not the type of player the Eagles will have to put a lot of stock into, as he projects as a third or fourth round pick for them. However, he’s a player that will come ready to work day in and day out. Matthew has the potential to be a mid-round steal.
4. Jimmy Smith
I’ve debated on this for a while, but if the Eagles do pick 23rd overall (which recent history tells us they won’t), I think Jimmy Smith is the guy they have to take.
Why? He’ll be the most talented corner on the board when the 23rd pick comes and his value is high enough to take him there. It also fills the Eagles biggest entering the draft.
Clearly, the Eagles need to do something to get their offensive line together. However, there’s no denying that the Eagles defense needs more help than the offense. Debate it if you want, but I don’t believe you can make any argument to change my mind.
People will talk about issues he may have had off the field, but on the field the kid has everything you look for: speed, size, strength, and great athleticism.
The right corner situation in 2010 was equivalent to the middle linebacker situation in 2009. The Eagles tried many options, but they just didn’t work out.
The Eagles need to solidify the position in 2011, and Smith could be the right man for the job.
3. Akeem Ayers
You’re probably thinking to yourself right now, “this guy is a first round prospect and he plays linebacker, no way the Eagles take him.” Of course, if you’re saying that, you know about the Eagles long history of going after linebackers in the early rounds.
Now, more than ever, the Eagles could use a guy like Ayers who will continually make plays all over the field for them. At UCLA, the guy was everywhere, showing his versatility by rushing the quarterback and playing against the run. He even has the athleticism to run with tight ends in coverage, something we all know the Eagles haven’t done effectively in years.
Ayers is a guy that could definitely come in and have an impact for the Eagles right away. Juan Castillo could have a blast drawing up different packages to send Ayers after the quarterback.
2. Robert Quinn
I’ve heard many people who are opposed to the Eagles taking a defensive end in the first round of the draft this year, because that’s exactly what they did last year when they drafted Brandon Graham. However, think about the advantage you have on a team when you can consistently get in the quarterback’s face every play. Quinn would be able to help the Eagles do this.
He has a combination of size and speed that he knows how to work to his advantage and just seems to have a natural instinct when playing the defensive end position. When the ball is snapped, he has the ability to quickly see what’s happening in the backfield and put himself into a position to make a play.
Although last year’s offseason seemed to be the year of the defensive end, Quinn is a guy that could come in and make an impact from day one. He could be a beast opposite Trent Cole and be part of a very dangerous trio when Graham gets healthy.
1. Patrick Peterson
Wishful thinking? Maybe, but this kid is destined for greatness. The Eagles would have to make a significant move to get their hands on Peterson, but they’d receive a significant impact in return. Are the Eagles to make this kind of move? We won’t know until draft day.
What we do know is that Peterson is one of, if not the most, talented defensive players in this years draft class. Wherever he ends up going, he’ll surely be a starter come opening day, and will immediately be feared by opposing quarterbacks.
The thing that would make this even sweeter for the Eagles is that they already have an extremely talented corner. Put one on the other side and they should be one of the hardest teams in the league to throw the ball on, with turnovers coming left and right.
Icing on the cake? He’s a big threat as a return man as well. If the Eagles made a move for Peterson, his impact would be felt both on defense and special teams.