Stephen A. Smith: In draft, Eagles get defensive

With Kevin Kolb now at quarterback , the Eagles should have made offense a priority in the draft.
With Kevin Kolb now at quarterback , the Eagles should have made offense a priority in the draft.
Posted: April 25, 2010

If you blinked and didn't pay attention, you would think the Eagles have nothing but their defense to worry about next season.

Every move they've made has been to bolster that side of the ball, to dissipate the glee opposing quarterbacks had last season each time they peeked in the direction of Philadelphia's suspect secondary.

Evidently, that's the only thing Andy Reid and Co. are concerned about these days, even after the departure of their franchise quarterback. And if it leaves the rest of us pondering the future of Kevin Kolb, wondering what to expect from a novice with two career starts on his resumé, that's our problem. We'll have to get over our trepidation.

The Eagles will be just fine with the ball in Kolb's hands.

Except, following the Eagles' latest first-round draft pick - a stud outside linebacker/defensive end named Brandon Graham from Michigan - the present is speaking louder than ever before, and so are the Eagles' actions. Or lack thereof.

Apparently, there's no need for help on the offensive side of the ball. At the very least, it's not high on the Eagles' list of priorities. It was their defense that surrendered 24-plus points in five of their last seven game, after all, with a unit devoid of a formidable outside linebacker or a stalker at safety, once Brian Dawkins skipped town. Meanwhile, there's a quarterback wet behind the ears, with a young crop of receivers too young to know much about themselves.

A show of hands from anyone concerned about the Eagles struggling miserably next season?

At the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Thursday, an astute NFL mind pointed out a troublesome similarity between these Eagles and the Green Bay Packers a few seasons back. The point being that, like McNabb, Brett Favre was not wanted. That, like Kolb, Aaron Rodgers was deemed the heir apparent. And the result was Green Bay's losing seven of eight close games that season because Rodgers - considered much better at that juncture than Kolb is now - was incapable of winning those kinds of games.

Fast-forward to 2010, the season Donovan McNabb was deemed a worse option than Kolb, and all anyone needs to do is take a look at the quarterbacks in the NFC East. It's McNabb, Tony Romo, Eli Manning - and Kolb.

"Anyone who knows anything about football knows it takes a good or great quarterback to beat a good or great quarterback," one NFC executive told me Thursday. "If you're not sure you have that, the least you can do is make sure you don't give one to a team within your division. The Eagles did that anyway. Now what?"

Receiver DeSean Jackson (1,156 yards) was sensational last season, but he wasn't himself after suffering a concussion late in the season. Brent Celek's franchise-record 76 receptions for a tight end were nice, but can we really expect that from him this season, with Kolb at the helm?

The Eagles' leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, registered 637 yards, but it means little considering their pass-happy tendencies. Experts are saying they don't need anything but depth at their center and offensive guard positions.

Brian Westbrook is gone - and Michael Vick might as well be, since the reins have been handed to Kolb.

"What you need and how much you need on offense usually depends on your quarterback," another executive said. "There's no other way around it."

The Eagles would have us believe otherwise, of course.

Call it the old adage in reverse: The best defense is not a good offense; the best offense is a good defense. It's precisely why the Eagles traded up for Graham, who recorded 138 career tackles and 291/2 sacks for Michigan, including 56 stops for losses. It's why they traded for linebacker Ernie Sims, too, to remind Philadelphians of a time when now-deceased defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was leading its blitz-happy crew.

Reid said he wants "impact players . . . guys with a lot of energy to an already energized defense," which is something Johnson would say. Clearly, that is what any defense needs when it is fresh off a season in which it allowed 27 touchdowns through the air.

But what about the offense?

What about a running game to take pressure off Kolb? What about a change in offensive schemes that focuses on the run a bit more since, indeed, Reid's pass-oriented philosophy has produced as many Super Bowl championships for himself as it did for McNabb?

"It all about their defense," the executive explained. "That's who they are."

Before Kolb, that is. Not anymore.


Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846 or ssmith@phillynews.com.

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