Reid Says Birds Are Ready To Draft

Andy Reid took some time away from the team earlier this off-season, but he was able to keep up on his preparations for the draft. Now, with Draft Day just three weeks away, Reid insists that both he and the Eagles are ready.

Eagles coach Andy Reid doesn't think the five-week leave of absence he took to deal with his two oldest sons' drug and legal issues has had a significant impact on his ability to prepare for the upcoming draft.

Besides being the head coach, Reid also is the Eagles' executive vice-president of football operations and has the final say in all personnel decisions. He didn't attend the league scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February and didn't attend any pre-draft Pro Days.

Reid said he did manage to watch quite a bit of tape during his leave of absence and feels he has a pretty good grasp on the draft's top 100 players.

"It worked out OK," he said. "I had a projector where I was. I made sure that I had all the film available. So I was able to stay up on the film part of it, and at the same time, balance out the family part."

The Eagles also taped all of the player interviews they did at the combine so that Reid could watch those.

Even under normal circumstances, Reid relies heavily on the advice of general manager Tom Heckert on personnel issues. "He and (vice-president of player personnel) Jason Licht and the scouts are very important," Reid said. "They've done a great job of keeping me abreast of everything that's been going on."

So, just what positions are the Eagles likely to draft when the big day finally arrives?

Safety: Free safety Brian Dawkins is 33 and can't be counted on beyond the '07 season. The jury still is out on strong safety Sean Considine, who replaced Michael Lewis seven games into last season. He's an adequate cover safety, but needs to add strength and mass to handle the run. Backup Quintin Mikell is an outstanding special-teams player, but isn't viewed as a possible starter at either safety spot.

Cornerback: The Eagles did not attempt to re-sign highly-regarded nickel back Rod Hood, who wanted to go somewhere where he would have a starting opportunity. Both of their starters - two-time Pro Bowler Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown - are undersized. Brown is better suited for nickel. Hood's potential replacement, William James, was a solid corner with the Giants before hurting his back in '05. James re-signed with the Eagles on a one-year deal.

Defensive end: A lot of question marks here. Their two projected starters are Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard. But Kearse is coming off a torn ACL and Howard hasn't played worth a damn in three years. Backups Trent Cole and Juqua Thomas are good situational pass-rushers when they can play limited snaps.

The Eagles could also look at adding some depth to their linebacking corps. While the Eagles are keeping their options open, they say they still are planning to move '06 third-round pick Chris Gocong, a college defensive end, to strong-side linebacker. That was the plan when they drafted him last year. But he struggled early in training camp and then hurt his neck and spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. A few weeks ago, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson indicated that there was a possibility the team might keep Gocong at defensive end. But coach Andy Reid said recently that, right now, the plan is to move Gocong to SAM 'backer. "He's at linebacker weight," the Eagles coach said. "He's at 260. He got hurt last year and we never really got to see him in action (at linebacker). But that's where we're planning to play him." Gocong will compete for the starting job with '06 starter Dhani Jones and Torrance Daniels.

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