Eagles, Reid do the draft as they always do

Posted: April 30, 2011

The assumption about the coming NFL season - accepting the larger assumption that there will be one - is that the Andy Reid era will be on the clock in 2011.

The Eagles have lost three consecutive postseason games, and the holes in their roster have been exposed at the most crucial times in recent seasons. You have to wonder whether the organization, as it did with quarterback Donovan McNabb, eventually will decide that good isn't good enough forever and that sometimes you simply have to put different curtains on the windows.

If any of that is true, if any of those assumptions about the ticking of the clock are accurate, it certainly doesn't show in the way the Eagles approached the opening rounds of the draft.

With their first pick, the Eagles took a 26-year-old former Canadian fireman for their offensive line. With their second pick, the Eagles selected a local kid, safety Jaiquawn Jarrett from Temple, even though most analysts believed that Jarrett's skills were those of a third- or fourth-round pick.

That doesn't mean the Eagles aren't right about both guys. Danny Watkins could become an all-pro guard. Jarrett could develop into a latter-day Andre Waters, another local college player who wasn't very big, wasn't very fast, but was a fierce hitter and a born football player. Reid likened Jarrett to Brian Dawkins, and those are pretty big cleats to fill.

All of it could happen, but it doesn't have to happen. The Eagles don't seem to mind that uncertainty, and aren't drafting as if afraid to be second-guessed. If this is the last draft in which Reid is making the final call in the room, he isn't drafting scared.

"If you have a guy you like and he fits into your system, you take him," Reid said. "Who knows if they are going to fall farther?"

Reid would defer the credit for the moves and say there are a lot of fingerprints on the draft sheets being passed around. General manager Howie Roseman has a large part in the player evaluation process, as does Ryan Grigson, the player personnel director, and Reid listens to his coordinators and his position coaches who have studied the various players in question.

But it is Reid who must turn thumbs-up or thumbs-down at the end. If everyone is in love with Watkins, he still will judge the film for himself. If the coaching staff invites Jarrett back for another workout, Reid will make time to study it.

Until such time as Jeffrey Lurie decides it is no longer Reid's team, it is business as usual. And business as usual means the Eagles aren't going to necessarily do the expected, even if the unexpected has left plenty of room in the trophy case.

If Reid wanted to go for a less-assailable pick in the first round, something that wouldn't have required as much explanation, he could have taken Jimmy Smith of Colorado, a cornerback with a spotty off-the-field reputation but unquestioned Pro Bowl skills. He could have taken a physical defensive end such as Cameron Jordan, who would be ready to step in right away.

But he didn't. He took Watkins because he liked him and the organization liked him, and it didn't really matter what anyone else might think.

When it came time for the second-round pick, the Eagles, desperately in need of a cornerback, could have easily, and understandably, taken Brandon Harris from Miami. He's little, but that's never bothered the Eagles before, and he was rated as a solid second-round talent.

That didn't happen, either. They took Jarrett, who started 43 of his 49 games at Temple and led the Owls in total tackles last season - at safety. That isn't to say the Eagles were set at safety and didn't need another. Nate Allen has to come back from injury to take one of the starting jobs, and Kurt Coleman holds the other. Marlin Jackson and Colt Anderson are in the mix somewhere. Quintin Mikell, who wants more money than they are willing to pay, probably won't be back.

It's not a stellar group, but then again, the Eagles probably could have waited a round to get Jarrett. They didn't want to. They liked him there, and that's where they took him.

"I think a lot of teams shied away from my 40-yard time," Jarrett said. "Teams can see how fast you run 40 yards, but a lot of guys are natural football players. That's what Coach Reid saw in me. He didn't focus on my combine testing, but he saw I'm a football player and that I can become a great player."

When the third round rolled through at the end of Friday night, the Eagles pulled another of their traditional maneuvers, trading down five places for the benefit of picking up a sixth-round pick from Baltimore, the 191st pick in the draft.

It takes confidence, or something, to make that move, telling the world you expect to find a golden nugget on the third day that the first 190 selections weren't able to mine. Perhaps they had the third round scoped out well enough to know their man - cornerback Curtis Marsh of Utah State - would still be there, and the extra pick was a free bonus.

Whatever it was, it was in character, and if the first two days of the 2011 draft have proved anything, it is that the Eagles haven't changed their character. The man at the top of the football side of the business is still the same, and he doesn't seem to be looking over his shoulder at anything at all.

Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com and read his blog at http://www.philly.com/postpatterns


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