Eagles address their most pressing needs

Posted: April 28, 2012

The past, present and future came together Saturday for one happy Eagles picture.

Brian Dawkins returned to the NovaCare Complex to retire as an Eagle and all the bitterness, at least for this moment, was forgotten.

The draft, meanwhile, was coming to its conclusion and for the first time in a long time, Andy Reid's selections were near-unanimously applauded by a fickle fan base.

And with that the future is as bright as the Eagles coach's Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts. The same holds true for 31 other NFL teams after the draft, when everyone believes he has picked only winners.

But Reid's selections, coming off last season's disappointing 8-8 record, addressed nearly every need the Eagles had, no matter how minor.

Difference-making defensive tackle? Check.

Three-down linebacker? Check.

Slot cornerback? Check.

Offensive line depth? Check.

Backup running back candidate? Check.

Did they need to expend a draft pick on developmental quarterback Nick Foles? No. But it's hard to ever quibble with using a third-rounder on a position of such importance. Did the Eagles need another fastball defensive end? No. But Vinny Curry was the best on the board at the time and the Eagles stuck to their promise to take the best available player. Could the Eagles have added a safety? Yes. But the draft class was weak.

Reid and general manager Howie Roseman, however, after two drafts that have yet to yield an impact player, seemed to select with some urgency. It's no secret that Reid won't likely survive another season without at least a playoff appearance. But he said his situation did not affect how he approached the draft.

"I owe the organization and respect the organization more than that," Reid said. "That's a selfish way to go about it. That's not how I operate."

Or maybe, Reid isn't looking down the barrel as some would like to think, or at least how owner Jeffrey Lurie made it seem during his state of the team address in January. Reid, following his podium news conference, sold last season as a rebuilding one to a couple of reporters. Maybe Lurie privately felt the same way?

"It was an 8-8 season but we were building," he said. "It wasn't an 8-8 season where we were going downhill. . . . So we started off slow and gradually we finished pretty strong. You were able to see young guys mature."

The first 12 games, though, felt like an avalanche. Reid said that Dawkins, who was riding his own roller coaster in Denver, texted him a few times during the season.

"Just to try and kind of cheer me up - not that I was down," Reid said. "But I explained to him [on Saturday], I said, 'The situation is when you make a transition from an older team back into a younger team and start that climb again, there's going to be a lull in the action."

Despite that "lull", Reid said the Eagles went into the draft without many holes because they were able to retain or extend players like DeSean Jackson, Trent Cole, Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis.

But the Eagles needed to upgrade on defense. Asked what he thought would be remembered most about the 2012 draft, Reid said, "Probably defense."

"I think that's probably the thing that jumps out at everybody. I think I'm stating the obvious," he said. "And hopefully, as we look at two, three years down the road that everybody's going, 'Hey, you know what? That was a good draft.' "

The first three picks came on that side of the ball with defensive tackle Feltcher Cox, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and Curry. Each is viewed as a player who can contribute immediately.

The first pick on the third day brought cornerback Brandon Boykin. Some analysts projected the Georgia product to go as early as the second round, but a broken leg probably hurt his stock.

Boykin said he was close to recovered. When he returns he'll compete for slot cornerback spot with Joselio Hanson and Brandon Hughes and likely have a significant role in the return game.

"Special teams is something that I know I'll be able to come in and make an impact on right away," said the 5-foot-9, 182-pound Boykin, who holds the Georgia record for kick return yards. "I know they're expecting me to do that."

After going defense with four of the first five picks, the Eagles added offensive depth in the late rounds.

Purdue tackle Dennis Kelly was chosen in the fifth round. The 6-8, 321-pound project was not invited to the combine in February, but offensive line coach Howard Mudd liked his potential, Reid said. Guard Brandon Washington of Miami (6-3, 320) was selected a round later.

The Eagles went after some skill position talent when they picked Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt in the sixth round and Kansas State running back Bryce Brown. Both come with caveats.

The 6-3, 216-pound McNutt is viewed as a bit of an underachiever despite excellent career numbers in college (166 catches for 2,815 yards and 28 touchdowns). Brown was once a prized recruit at Tennessee. He transferred after two seasons, sat out a year, and left Kansas State after three carries in his senior season.

"We took a chance," Reid said of Brown.

It may have been the only reach of Reid's 14th draft.


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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