It's Gotta Be A DB, Right?

With the 26th pick in the first round, the Eagles are at the mercy of the 25 teams selecting in front of them. But as the April 28-29 draft draws ever closer, there appears to be a very good chance that the team will select a defensive back - either a safety or cornerback - with their first-round pick.

The Eagles need help at both safety spots. Their six-time Pro Bowl free safety, Brian Dawkins, will be 34 in October and can't be counted on beyond next season. And the jury still is out on third-year man Sean Considine, who started the last nine games at strong safety last season.

Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, the Eagles' two starting corners for the last three years, both are back. But valuable nickel back Rod Hood signed with the Arizona Cardinals in March. They did re-sign William James, who they feel can adequately replace Hood and even push Brown for a starting job.

The only other corner on their roster with any experience is Joselio Hanson, who played pretty well last season after spending the previous spring in NFL Europe.

The Eagles know they have no shot at the draft's top safety, Louisiana State's LaRon Landry, who is expected to be a top-10 pick. But they have a first-round grade on at least one of the draft's other top safeties - Brandon Meriweather of Miami.

At 5-10.5 and 195 pounds, Meriweather isn't particularly big. But many scouts consider him the best cover safety in the draft, even better than Landry. With Dawkins at free safety for the last decade, the Eagles essentially have had a third corner on the field when they were in their base defense.

At least four corners - Leon Hall of Michigan, Darrelle Revis of Pitt, Chris Houston of Arkansas and Aaron Ross of Texas - are expected to go in the first round. How many of them make it down to the Eagles at number 26 remains to be seen.

Sheppard had six interceptions and earned his second Pro Bowl invitation last season, but Brown did not have a particularly good year. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson moves Brown inside on passing downs. That's where he'd be best suited if they can find someone better to play outside in their base defense, or if James, a former starter with the Giants before injuring his back in '05, can beat him out in training camp.

Eagles' Team Needs:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Notes from the 'Nest:

  • Backup quarterback A.J. Feeley has spent most of the off-season at his home in San Diego, working out with neighbor Carson Palmer, while his live-in girlfriend, Heather Mitts, prepared for the women's soccer World Cup. Mitts is a member of the U.S. national team.
  • Takeo Spikes will be one of the Eagles' starting linebackers next season. But coach Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson still aren't sure which of the three spots he'll play. Spikes has been a weak-side linebacker most of his career, but played primarily on the strong side last year after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, and also has played inside. He said he doesn't care where he plays. "We talked about it, but it could be any position," Spikes said. "I'm going to make the plays wherever they put me. That's the way I truly feel."
  • New quarterback Kelly Holcomb, who has been penciled in as the team's number 3 quarterback behind starter Donovan McNabb and Feeley, could end up competing against a draftee for a roster job. But the soon-to-be 34-year-old Holcomb doesn't mind. "Competition is what this business is all about," he said. "I've had to compete for everything I've gotten in this league. Whatever it is, I'm all for it.
  • Off-Season Recap

    Re-Signed Players:

  • RB Correll Buckhalter: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
  • CB William James: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
  • S Quintin Mikell: Potential UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
  • DE Juqua Thomas: UFA; $12.5M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
  • Players Acquired:

  • WR Kevin Curtis: UFA Rams; $30M/6 yrs, $2.5M SB/$5M RB '07; $1.5M RB '08.
  • QB Kelly Holcomb (trade Bills).
  • WR Bethel Johnson: UFA Vikings; 1 yr, terms unknown.
  • DT Montae Reagor: FA Colts; $8.3M/3 yrs, $2M guaranteed.
  • LB Takeo Spikes (trade Bills).
  • Players Lost:

  • LB Shawn Barber: UFA Texans; $5.5M/3 yrs, $2/2M guaranteed.
  • QB Jeff Garcia: UFA Buccaneers; $7M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
  • CB Rod Hood: UFA Cardinals; $15M/5 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.
  • S Michael Lewis: UFA 49ers; $30M/6 yrs, $9.8M guaranteed.
  • WR Donte' Stallworth: UFA Patriots; $33M/6 yrs, $1M SB.
  • DT Darwin Walker (traded Bills).

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