Eagles Team Needs

With the NFL Draft just 24 hours away, here is my take on what the Birds actually need to strengthen the team. While there is no way to tell who the Eagles will select with their eight selections this weekend, we can get a basic idea of what positions they will look to strengthen. I take a look at the team position by position, and offer my opinions on what this team really needs. Of course, the Eagles would be smart to consider all positions, if the right player is available!

Quarterback: (Donovan McNabb, Koy Detmer, A.J. Feeley, Tim Hasselbeck)

This group is solid, and really does not need any addition. In the spirit of competition, the Eagles may opt to bring a fifth guy in as an undrafted free agent to push the reserves. I do not expect that the Birds will take a quarterback.

Running Back: (Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, Rod Smart, Brian Mitchell)

Depending on the health of Duce Staley, this group of incumbents could be solid. Duce spent last off-season rehabilitating from his career threatening foot injury, and then suffered a shoulder injury early in the 2001 season. If these injuries are sufficiently healed to allow Duce to run the way he did in the 1999 season, this position is in solid shape. Duce is a terrific receiver out of the backfield, Buckhalter looked very good as a rookie running the ball. Mitchell returns to solidify the return game. Given the uncertainty of Staley's durability, the Eagles should address the running back position in the draft.

Fullback: (Cecil Martin, Jamie Reader)

Cecil "The Diesel" is a triple threat fullback who can run, catch, and block. Unless the Eagles extend his qualifying offer past this coming season, Cecil will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Ex-XFL player, Jamie Reader is a very capable backup. This position is under control, but the Eagles may look to add some depth late.

Wide Receiver: (James Thrash, Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston, Na Brown, Dameane Douglas, Gari Scott, Sean Scott)

Thrash, Pinkston, and Mitchell were the best set of receivers the Eagles have had in several years, and they were a rather ordinary group. Thrash immediately came into Philadelphia, and became the team's best wideout. Pinkston did a nice job in his first season as a starter, but he leaves you wondering what he could have done with more bulk and strength. Mitchell came on later in the season and did a nice job for the Birds. One would certainly hope that Na Brown and Gari Scott are on their last chance in Philly. "Best Hands on the Team" Brown has yet to produce the numbers to equal the accolades he has received from the team. Sean Scott returns to the off-season roster after looking very good last preseason. Dameane Douglas is a very solid special teamer, and a good reserve wide receiver. This group still needs a gamebreaker, and the offense in general needs a homerun threat. If there is someone available, we can only hope the Birds grab him.

Tight End: (Chad Lewis, Tony Stewart, Mike Bartrum)

The team may also elect to resign Jeff Thomason. Lewis is one of the top five tight ends in professional football. He has always been a good receiving tight end, but has greatly improved his blocking in his last two years with the team. Tony Stewart flashed the ability to be a significant contributor for several years in the NFL. The Penn State rookie looked very good when given the chance to contribute. Bartrum has been resigned to ensure solid deep snapping on the special teams units. He will also has the ability to contribute at tight end. This area is not a real need, and will be even stronger if they resign Thomason.

Offensive Line: (Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, John Welborn, Jermaine Mayberry, Hank Fraley, Doug Brzezinski, Bobby Williams, Kendrick Rogers, Pita Elisara)

This group needs immediate depth. The starting group is solid, but there are no backups beyond Brzezinski, and the much-maligned Bobbie Williams. Williams has proven to me that he has the talent to play in the NFL, but may never get the chance behind Mayberry, Welborn, and Brzezinski. Andy Reid likes to get his best five on the field, and keep them there. At center, Hank Fraley had a good season considering he was pressed into service at the last minute. Hank can be over-matched inside, and the Birds need to get him some help at center. The team uses it's starting guards as backups at the tackle position, and then brings in Brzezinski and Williams. They lost a key reserve to the Texans in Ryan Schau. Depth would be nice at all positions, and a starting quality center is needed.

Defensive Line: (Hugh Douglas, Corey Simon, Hollis Thomas, Brandon Whiting, Derrick Burgess, Paul Grasmanis, N.D. Kalu, Darwin Walker)

The individual parts are better than the sum here. Hugh Douglas has bulked up and developed into more of a complete defensive end. He holds contain better now, and is not strictly a pass rushing end anymore. Hollis Thomas is relatively strong against the run, but plays in spurts, and wears down as the game goes on. Grasmanis is a solid rotational guy to have around, while Kalu and Burgess offer situational pass rushing skills. Whiting is solid at the left defensive end slot, but is a virtual non-factor in the pass rush. When Burgess started in place of Whiting, he was exposed in the running game. The Eagles need both a run stopping defensive tackle and end to rotate along the line.

Linebackers: (Carlos Emmons, Barry Gardner, Quentin Caver, Shawn Barber, Ike Reese, Josh Parry)

This unit has taken serious blows in the past two off-seasons. Key reserve James Darling was lost to the Jets last year and weak-side starter Mike Caldwell was lost this off season to Chicago. Two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter thinks he's worth considerably more than he is, and has moved on to put another team into cap trouble. I feel that Barry Gardner is an able replacement. He played well at the position late last season, after reacquainting himself with the middle linebacker role. The problem arises when it's time to put a backup in, and the team may want to look for one. Quentin Caver is the immediate backup right now, but he will also be competing with free agent acquisition Shawn Barber, and Ike Reese for the vacant weak side slot. This is a real area of need, but the crop of linebackers available in the draft is not that great. The Birds need to come away from the draft with something to bolster this position.

Cornerbacks: (Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Al Harris, William Hampton, Darrel Crutchfield)

This is as solid as any group in the NFL, but it is also an aging group at the top. Vincent is entering his eleventh year, and Taylor his eighth year. Third corner Al Harris is entering his fifth season, but is still one of the league's best third corners. Even Hampton has shown flashes of decent play. But with Taylor and Vincent headed towards the downside of their careers, the Eagles could use some more depth to bring in behind them.

Safeties: (Brian Dawkins, Blaine Bishop, Rashard Cook, Julian Jones)

Brian Dawkins and Blaine Bishop are both Pro Bowl quality safeties. Dawkins is a top flight playmaker, and a momentum changer. He has learned to control his aggression appropriately, most of the time. He has fine range in a two-deep defense and can come up in run support to crack the ball carrier hard. Bishop is also tough in run support, and can fill inside the box. Bishop is just an ordinary performer in zone coverage. Cook played nicely in a reserve roll, and is better than most people think he is. Julian Jones was playing very well last preseason until an injury claimed his season. Tim Hauck could always be dusted off and brought back in. He is a solid player who goes all out, all the time. When he gets time on the field in defense, he brings his special teams mentality with him. This is not really a need for the Birds, but you never know who will be available.

Kicker and punter are solid with David Akers and Sean Landeta manning each position respectively. If the Eagles chose to bring in competition for one or both of them, I certainly hope they don't waste a draft pick.


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