Senior moment at hand

Luke Kuechly, an inside linebacker who had 532 tackles in three seasons at Boston College, could interest the Eagles.
Luke Kuechly, an inside linebacker who had 532 tackles in three seasons at Boston College, could interest the Eagles. (Associated Press)
Posted: January 23, 2012

MOBILE, Ala. - The Senior Bowl has been something of a proving ground for the Eagles over the last few years.

Last year, they saw a 26-year-old left tackle from Baylor impress as he played guard for the first time. Three months later, Danny Watkins was the Eagles' first-round draft pick and started 12 games.

Two years ago, Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham was named the Senior Bowl's most valuable player after dominating with five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The Eagles traded up to take Graham with the 13th pick.

And 4 years ago, Notre Dame defensive tackle Trevor Laws was named the game's most outstanding lineman with five solo tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. The Eagles used their top pick that year to take Laws in the second round.

Regardless of how those selections have panned out, the Eagles have put faith in what they have seen. Contingents from the 32 NFL teams descend on Mobile, Ala., again this week for Saturday's Senior Bowl. General manager Howie Roseman and his staff, along with members of the coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, will be there. As of late last week, Andy Reid was undecided whether he would attend.

You might recall a year ago, changes to the Eagles' defensive staff leaked out at the Senior Bowl with defensive line coach Rory Segrest and linebackers coach Bill Shuey both being fired in the aftermath of Sean McDermott's dismissal.

Much of the attention for the Eagles in the early mock drafts is on linebacker, a position they have not selected in the first round since Jerry Robinson was chosen in 1979. The name most associated with the Birds is Boston College inside linebacker Luke Kuechly, the winner of the Nagurski, Lombardi and Butkus awards who led the nation in tackles with 191. In his three seasons, he collected a school and ACC record 532 tackles. Since he is a junior, he is not at the Senior Bowl.

North Carolina's Zach Brown, considered the top 4-3 outside linebacker, will be at the Senior Bowl. Brown had 91 tackles, 11 1/2 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks for the Tar Heels. Brown is projected to be selected in the middle of the first round.

The top inside linebacker prospect at the Senior Bowl is likely North Carolina State's Audie Cole, although he is projected as going in the third or fourth round.

If the Eagles do not use the franchise tag on DeSean Jackson, wide receiver is also a possibility in Round 1. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, potentially among the top receivers selected, has decided to skip the Senior Bowl.

The top two receiver prospects in Mobile figure to be Baylor's Kendall Wright, whose main knock is that he is only 5-10, and North Carolina's Dwight Jones. Jones was ruled ineligible for the final game of his college career, the Independence Bowl, for allowing his name and image to be used to promote his birthday party on New Year's Eve.

With Michael Vick turning 32 in the offseason and Vince Young expected to move on in free agency, the Eagles might very well look for a quarterback somewhere in the early rounds, especially since they have an extra second-round pick, courtesy of the Kevin Kolb trade with Arizona.

Stanford's Andrew Luck is expected to become the top overall pick in the draft, and Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, is expected to go soon after, long before the Eagles draft 15th overall. In any case, neither Luck nor Griffin will be in Mobile this week, and what looked like an extraordinary QB draft class lost a little luster when Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Southern Cal's Matt Barkley decided to stay in school. But there are Senior Bowl QBs who could interest the Birds, particularly in the second round or later. They include Arizona's Nick Foles, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, San Diego State's Ryan Lindley, and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins.

Foles, a transfer from Michigan State, hails from a school that has never produced a prominent NFL quarterback. But he's 6-5, 240, and is said to possess excellent tools. Weeden, 6-4, 220, is intriguing in that some observers think he might be a first-round talent, but he almost certainly won't be drafted there, at age 28, having spent 5 years playing minor league baseball. Eagles fans no doubt will draw a parallel with Watkins, the ex-firefighter. Lindley is a 6-4, 230-pounder whose draft stock suffered this year when he managed to complete only 53 percent of his passes. Cousins, 6-3, 205, had an excellent year and could be on the rise from his early third- to fourth-round projection.

Among the 100 players in attendance are two from Penn State: defensive end Jack Crawford (Longport, N.J.) and wide receiver Johnnie Troutman. All-America defensive end Devon Still, who is expected to be selected in the top half of Round 1, withdrew with a sprained big toe, according to the NFL Network. He is expected to be ready for the combine next month.

Daily News staff reports contributed to this story.

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