After the draft, Eagles still have holes to fill

Jaiquawn Jarrett's best 40-yard dash time was 4.54 seconds. The 6-foot, 196-pound second-round pick led Temple in combined tackles last season with 74.
Jaiquawn Jarrett's best 40-yard dash time was 4.54 seconds. The 6-foot, 196-pound second-round pick led Temple in combined tackles last season with 74. (MICHAEL CONROY / Associated Press)
Posted: May 01, 2011

The Eagles added 11 young players over the three-day NFL draft, but they still emerged without answers for two of their biggest needs: starting cornerback and defensive line.

After taking eight players Saturday - starting with Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews and Nebraska kicker Alex Henery - the Eagles came away with a draft class that adds depth at safety, linebacker, offensive line, and running back and probably turns the page on David Akers' long tenure at kicker.

They filled one glaring need in the first round by selecting guard Danny Watkins.

But the Eagles did nothing to fix their other two most significant weaknesses: the front four, which wore down last season, and right cornerback.

The only corner the Eagles took, third-rounder Curtis Marsh, is unlikely to start this year. They picked no defensive linemen.

In some ways, the inaction at those two positions is reminiscent of last year's lack of upgrades on the offensive line, which plagued the team all season.

But there is one key difference: Because of the NFL lockout, free agency and trades are still to come, at some point.

"It's not a finished product," coach Andy Reid said after the Eagles' last pick.

Like the draft, those routes also carry risk.

Among the key players the Eagles brought in through offseason free agency and trades last year, only Ernie Sims and Darryl Tapp saw significant playing time. Sims was a nonfactor and Tapp a rotation player.

The Eagles, though, should have money to spend.

"We've got a very good plan for free agency when it happens," Reid said.

And the team has Kevin Kolb, a trading chip that might still provide immediate help if the Eagles can swing a deal that brings in a veteran starter.

While the Eagles may not have fixed all of their biggest needs, their choices, particularly in the late rounds Saturday, offer flexibility and cover for areas where veterans may depart or be cut loose.

"We've got several guys on our team that are potentially, depending on how things go here, free agents, so we've got to look at those guys and see how they fit in here," Reid said.

At linebacker, for example, Omar Gaither, Sims, and Akeem Jordan may all be allowed to walk. Stewart Bradley is a restricted free agent but could become unrestricted if the league reverts to 2009 free-agency rules.

Enter Matthews (fourth round), a middle linebacker who Reid said could also play on the weak side, giving him options. Two other linebackers taken Saturday, Brian Rolle (Ohio State, sixth round) and Greg Lloyd (UConn, seventh round) could compete for special- teams jobs held last year by Jordan and Gaither.

Safety Quintin Mikell is an unrestricted free agent and turned 30 last year. Enter second-round safety Jaiquawn Jarrett.

Akers was hit with the transition tag but balked at the restriction, and it may not stick anyway. Enter Henery, who looks likely to replace Akers, given the fourth-round investment the Eagles made in him.

Backup running back Jerome Harrison is another restricted free agent who may eventually be free to walk, depending on the collective bargaining agreement. Enter elusive back Dion Lewis (Pittsburgh, fifth round), who broke school records belonging to starter LeSean McCoy.

Fullback Leonard Weaver may not return to football after suffering a gruesome injury. Enter Stanley Havili (USC, seventh round), whose athleticism and pass-catching skills contrast with the rugged Owen Schmitt.

Guards Nick Cole, Max Jean-Gilles, and Reggie Wells have all reached the end of their contracts. Enter three lineman who might provide depth: Watkins, who should start; guard Julian Vandervelde (Iowa, fifth round); and Jason Kelce (Cincinnati, sixth round), who played center and guard in college.

The options allowed by the draft class could prove important in an unpredictable league. But none of those players will spark the front four and none will help shut down wide receivers not covered by Asante Samuel.

For that, the Eagles will have to look toward free agency and trades. And wait.


 

 

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