Dissecting Eagles' draft picks

Curtis Marsh is corner project.
Curtis Marsh is corner project. (Associated Press)
Posted: May 02, 2011

The most obvious conclusion that can be drawn from the Eagles' draft this weekend is that the Eagles are almost certainly going to be players in whatever passes for free agency this year.

While they attacked their pass-protection problems head-on by selecting Danny Watkins, who is expected to be a Day 1 starter at one of the guard spots, in the first round, they didn't do anything to improve a pass rush that managed just 15 sacks in the last eight games last season, and they didn't find a starting right corner. At least not for this season.

At 6-0 1/2, 197 pounds, Curtis Marsh adds some much needed size and physicality to an undersized corner group. But he's a project. He was a running back until just 2 years ago and started just 16 games at corner at Utah State. At best this season, he's the dime corner and bolsters Bobby April's special teams.

Watkins was a good pick. Obviously, the fact that he's going to be 27 in November means he's going to have a shorter career span than if he were 23. But he's also more mature and should be able to handle the ups and downs of being an NFL rookie better than a younger guy. With his biological clock ticking, he'll also be more focused.

Watkins played left tackle at Baylor, but Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd acknowledged that Watkins is built more for guard or center.

"He doesn't really have the arm length and stride length to reduce distance [on the outside]," Mudd said.

So if the kid is only projected as an interior lineman, you ask, why didn't the Eagles instead draft Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, who went six spots after Watkins to the Bears?

Well, it means one of three things things:

* A) They are thinking of moving left guard Todd Herremans out to right tackle and will plug Watkins in at one of the guard spots and Mike McGlynn at the other.

* B) They think Winston Justice will rebound with a solid season at left tackle.

* C) They think one of their 6-8 backups - King Dunlap or 2010 undrafted free agent Austin Howard - is going to step up and grab the starting right tackle job.

My money's on A.

The Eagles went into the draft feeling that if they didn't get a pass-rushing defensive end in the first round, the pickings were going to be slim after that. After Adrian Clayborn went to the Bucs at 20, I wasn't shocked they didn't take a d-end at 23. Cam Heyward and Cam Jordan were both still on the board, but both are better fits as 5-techniques in a 3-4 than an edge-rusher in the Eagles' 4-3 scheme. And they, like every other team, wanted no part of sliding Da'Quan Bowers and his questionable knee in the first round. That said, I thought they would grab a defensive lineman at some point in the draft. But they didn't.

Considering that last year's No. 1 pick, Brandon Graham, still is rehabbing from a torn ACL, and considering Juqua Parker will turn 33 this month, and considering that they've got no reason to believe Victor Abiamiri is going to bounce back from microfracture surgery and not get hurt again, they either have high hopes for CFL import Phillip Hunt, have decided to wait until free agency, or think new defensive line coach Jim Washburn can turn water into wine.

I was OK with them taking Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, but not where they took him. The Eagles needed to add depth at safety. Jarrett's a smart kid and a big hitter, which means he can look forward to donating a lot of his salary to the league in fines. He'll help them in run support. But he's an in-the-box safety who they definitely could have been gotten in the third round and probably even the fourth. Andy Reid compared Jarrett to Brian Dawkins. As a hitter, maybe. But Jarrett doesn't have the speed to cover slot receivers or seam-splitting tight ends.

Their selection of Alex Henery in Round 4 had spite written all over it. I have no problem with them going out and getting another kicker, particularly a guy who was the most accurate field goal kicker in NCAA history. But like Jarrett, they could've gotten him later. Taking him in the fourth round was their way of sending a message to David Akers and every other player that they don't like people who have the audacity to turn down contract offers from them.

With the selections of linebackers Casey Matthews and Greg Lloyd, the Eagles are hoping bloodlines count for something. Matthews doesn't have his brother Clay's explosiveness nor natural ability, but is a high-motor guy who's always around the ball. He was excellent value in the fourth round. Same with Lloyd late in the seventh. He tore his ACL and MCL late in the '09 season and struggled last season. If he can bounce back from the injury, he might be able to help the Eagles. If he can't, it didn't cost the Eagles much to find out.

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