If Eagles want offensive line help, it's available in draft

Colorado's Nate Solder has the size - 6-8, 314 pounds, 81-inch wingspan - to get noticed.
Colorado's Nate Solder has the size - 6-8, 314 pounds, 81-inch wingspan - to get noticed.
Posted: February 25, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - If the Eagles want to improve their protection for Michael Vick next season, they should have options. As the NFL combine opened here Thursday, general manager Howie Roseman said he saw the deepest offensive line class in years.

"The talent level overall is probably better than it has been the past few years," Roseman said. "It's deep. You have some guys who are versatile, who can play tackle, who can play guard. Obviously, that helps."

While none of the top tackles is regarded as highly as some of the top picks who have come out in recent years, draft analysts have at least five tackles rated as first-round worthy, and several have said quality guards could be available in the second round.

"We like to throw the ball in Philadelphia, and for that they've got to have good feet, good athletic ability, be able to move," Roseman said.

The Eagles also expect to get help from within. Roseman said center Jamaal Jackson is healthy again after missing the 2010 season with a triceps tear.

"That's a veteran who's played at a high level for us for a long time, and we're excited to see what he'll do. Getting a guy who's started and played at a high level, that only helps clear up the picture a little bit," Roseman said. He added that tackle Winston Justice should be fine after having knee surgery last week.

After the Eagles allowed 49 regular-season sacks, fourth most in the NFL last season, several draft analysts have linked the team to Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, who has said he sees himself as the best tackle available.

"I'm a physical player that's gone against four potential first-round picks this year," said Carimi, a four-year starter in college. "I have a better resume just going against better talent."

Carimi said he played against four potential first-round pass rushers: Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), and Wisconsin teammate J.J. Watt. His best games, he said, came in the biggest spots: against Iowa and Ohio State and in the Rose Bowl.

"I do perform good against good talent," Carimi said.

Many scouts have him projected as a right tackle - meaning they don't see him as a dominant pass blocker - but that also happens to be where the Eagles may need help, since Jason Peters has the left side locked up. Carimi said he could make the switch, since he practiced working out of right and left stances at Wisconsin.

Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, another top-rated tackle, was more modest, and spent part of his session at Lucas Oil Stadium answering questions about his degree in biochemistry and hopes to start a medical research foundation after his football career ends. As for Carimi's being the best, Castonzo said, "That's his opinion."

"I'm not going to sit up here and say I'm better than him or he's better than me; it's for the scouts to decide," Castonzo said. "My goal is always to be better. I always want to be the best."

Ben Ijalana, a Villanova lineman who grew up in South Jersey's Hainesport, said his goal is to impress scouts in interviews and show them the man "behind the face mask." Coming from a smaller school, he related a key piece of advice he received from a coach his freshman year that has stuck with him.

"If you can play, they'll find you. I truly believe that," Ijalana said. "It's why I'm here now. There might be knocks on my level of competition. But it's what you do out on the football field that matters."

He jokingly added, "Yeah, I'm 6-31/2, I'm sorry I'm not 6-6, I'm not 6-8, but you know, you put some cleats and a helmet on me I could be."

Ijalana grew up an Eagles fan but is ready to play for any team that takes him.

Nate Solder, a Colorado tackle, impressed just by stepping up to the podium: He stood at 6-foot-8 and said he was measured with an 81-inch wingspan.

Other top tackle prospects include Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State and Tyron Smith from Southern California.

The Eagles' other top needs are at cornerback and defensive line, where they could use another impact pass rusher. The defensive line class is also considered quite deep, while the cornerback group is thin.

Looking for Offensive Linemen

Here are NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock's top six offensive linemen at the NFL combine:

Player                     School               Height      Weight

1. Gabe Carimi            Wisconsin            6-8      292

2. Nate Solder            Colorado            6-8      314

3. Anthony Castonzo      Boston College      6-7      305

4. Tyron Smith            Southern California   6-5      267

5. Ben Ijalana            Villanova             6-4      320

tie   Derek Sherrod         Mississippi State      6-5      312   

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com.

Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JonathanTamari


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