The NFC East and the Eagles' draft

Posted: April 25, 2010

If there was some sort of shift in the Eagles' war room after the Cowboys drafted wide receiver Dez Bryant, the team's high command did not show it.

General Andy Reid and his lieutenants stuck to their attack even though their NFC East rivals were dropping bombs all around them.

The Redskins snatched franchise left tackle Trent Williams.

Boom!

The Giants plucked explosive defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Blast!

The Cowboys grabbed Bryant, another tall ball-catcher.

Look out below!

"This is what we do," Reid said Saturday after the conclusion of the NFL draft. "We try and take the best football player. I don't get real concerned with anybody but us and what we need to do to become a better football team. And that's kind of how I feel bottom line. That's it. I don't focus on other teams."

By some strange coincidence, when the Cowboys selected Bryant on Thursday with the 24th overall pick, it was in the spot vacated by the Eagles. Earlier, Reid had traded up 11 places so that he could get Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham, the type of pass rusher whom he hopes will get into the mug of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.

In Reid's estimation, Romo's picking apart the Eagles' secondary at season's end was primarily due to an inconsistent push up-front. Still, it was hard not to notice how the Cowboys' large receivers had their way against the Eagles' smurf-size defensive backs.

Miles Austin (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and Roy Williams (6-3, 215), pitted against Asante Samuel (5-10, 185) and Sheldon Brown (5-10, 200), combined for 12 receptions in the Cowboys' 34-14 playoff rout of the Eagles.

Rather than rely on those two, however, Dallas traded up to nab the 6-2, 225-pound Bryant, the Oklahoma State product with character issues. If there was ever a receiver tailor-made for the Jerry Joneses, it's the brash Bryant, who will wear the No. 88 of former Dallas receiving great Michael Irvin.

The Eagles, meanwhile, needed a cornerback. Long before the Cowboys added Bryant, they needed a cornerback. Brown was traded to Cleveland earlier this month, and despite the Eagles' selling Ellis Hobbs (5-9, 195) as his replacement, they needed to at least get someone whom they could forecast as a future starter.

The Eagles, not surprisingly, went for a safety with their second pick, choosing South Florida's Nate Allen. But they traded away their late second-round selection and apparently whiffed on cornerbacks Jerome Murphy, Amari Spievey, and the 6-2 Myron Lewis of Vanderbilt.

In the end, the Eagles selected only one true corner in the draft, taking Kentucky's Trevard Lindley in the fourth round. With Lindley having missed parts of his senior season with a high ankle sprain, Reid said the Eagles based their analysis of the corner on the film of his junior year.

Here's one NFL scout's take on the rookie: "He's a decent cover corner that probably gambles too much and when he has to tackle can't wrap up."

The Eagles already have that corner. His name is Asante Samuel. Lindley is listed at 5-11, 183 pounds.

The Eagles, it should be noted, aren't big on size - especially on defense. Some of the nine defensive players they drafted over the last three days could be labeled as undersize, especially the first three of their first four picks - Graham, Allen and Lindley.

"We've added speed all across the defense, speed and quickness," Reid said. "Even though they're not the biggest guys, they've all got big hearts, and they can move."

You can't teach size, to paraphrase a saying, but you also can't teach speed. So while Washington bulked up its offensive line, New York added prototypically sized defensive lineman, and Dallas build up its receiving corps, the Eagles maintained their strategy.

The Eagles rarely worry about the moves their division foes make. For many teams, trading within the division is a last resort. The Eagles have made two very high-profile intra-division moves within the last three years.

In the 2007 draft, they traded down in a deal with the Cowboys, who took the Eagles' first-round pick and turned it into linebacker Anthony Spencer. The Eagles, in turn, used Dallas' two picks to select their current starting quarterback (Kevin Kolb) and middle linebacker (Stewart Bradley).

Earlier this month, the Eagles sent their franchise quarterback to the Redskins when they exchanged Donovan McNabb for two draft picks. One of those picks netted the Eagles Allen. Reid said he could also project as a corner.

In addition, when the Eagles dealt this year's 55th overall pick, they partnered up with the Cowboys, who ended up taking Penn State linebacker Sean Lee.

The Eagles simply do not concern themselves with what other teams are doing.

Call it focus, call it narrow-mindedness.

The Eagles would never call it a bunker mentality.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.

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