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:
- 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.
- 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: