Birds Look To Add Youth To Aging Roster

Experience is great, but with it comes age. The Philadelphia Eagles know that better than a lot of teams since they've got a number of key players who are nearing a crucial part of their career. The question is, just when do you draft their replacement?

Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter, Jevon Kearse, Donovan McNabb and even Brian Westbrook can all be considered aged veterans. And all are breaking down in one way or another. Just how long will each of them last and when do the Eagles look to draft their replacement?

Safety is a certain concern for the Eagles and not just because Dawkins is aging. They would love to find someone who could step in right away, but that's not going to be easy to do. Finding the heir-apparent for Dawkins might be doable though since the Birds could draft a player who would have the talent to play every down, but would just need some seasoning and work to reach his potential. Plus, there are a number of good safeties in the draft and it's likely that someone will fall down toward where the Eagles pick at number 26.

Three-time Pro Bowler Jeremiah Trotter is 31 and his knees are starting to betray him. He's a liability in coverage and is strictly an A-gap run-stopper. Second-year man Omar Gaither, who played pretty well in five late-season starts on the weak side last year, could be moved to the middle if the Eagles decide to put recently acquired Takeo Spikes at WILL.

The Eagles have a lot of confidence in Gaither and he's likely to see increased playing time in 2007. Just how much Spikes will be on the field is a question mark and Trotter's health will continue to dog him for the rest of his career.

Then, there's the running back situation. While Brian Westbrook had 300-plus touches for the first time in his career last year and held up very well, the Eagles need to improve their depth at the position. Again, the Eagles aren't likely to find someone who can step in right away, but you can sometimes find a diamond in the rough for an NFL backfield in the later rounds.

Will the Eagles look for Donovan McNabb's eventual replacement in this weekend's draft? Look maybe, but finding is another question. If the Eagles draft an quarterback, it won't be until the later rounds. Two names that could find their way to Philly would be Jared Zabransky (Boise State) or Justin Rascati (James Madison).

Zabranski is the better rated of the two quarterbacks, but isn't generally thought of as a potential starter in the NFL. He does have a killer attitude and huge work ethic, which could carry him well, but in the end, he's not likely to be considered a player who could replace McNabb when his playing days are finally over. As for Rascati, he's got good arm strength and is a tough kid who would fit well in the Eagles offensive scheme, but again, doesn't have the raw talent to be an NFL starter.

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