Inside the Eagles: Eagles looking better in the offseason

Posted: May 01, 2012

What a difference a few months make.

After a toxic 2011, Andy Reid and the Eagles management have restored a sense of optimism and hope around their team.

Even the loudest Reid critic should be impressed with what the Eagles have done the last two months, including the draft that just unfolded.

"It's a positive thing. When you're around the team right now you feel that," Reid said Saturday, wearing a signature Hawaiian shirt. "I think they're excited to get going."

For anyone else it would be a bit early for short-sleeves with a tropical motif, but as the weather warms and the Eagles' barren January fades in the distance, the team once again looks great in the offseason.

In the draft they added a defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox, who projects as a difference-making force against the NFL's high-flying offenses. They got highly regarded linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who has the speed the team covets and, critically, the college results that say he was more than just fast.

Add in defensive end Vinny Curry and cornerback/return man Brandon Boykin and the defense should be faster, younger, more dynamic.

Those picks round out two months that included the low-cost trade for linebacker DeMeco Ryans and strong moves to re-sign wide receiver DeSean Jackson and guard Evan Mathis while also locking up Todd Herremans and Trent Cole to long-term deals.

After watching the hated New York Giants parade to the championship, Reid, Howie Roseman, and Joe Banner have rebounded well. Smart free agency moves gave them the flexibility to move wisely in the draft.

They were aggressive when they needed to be to land Cox and patient in waiting to snag Boykin.

"[Roseman] orchestrated this draft and I thought he did a heck of a job with that," Reid said. "He really had a nice control of the room and and a good feel for what was happening in the league."

It's notable how the Eagles used a variety of methods to improve. They smartly negotiated with their own players. They used a surplus of draft picks to get Ryans and cap space to sign tackle Demetress Bell ahead of other suitors. Their draft included trades up, trades back - including one that helped get Boykin - and staying put.

Throw in the good karma from Saturday's classy sendoff for Brian Dawkins and there's a chance this offseason rivals the last one for planning and execution.

The problem is, we all know how last season worked out once they started keeping score on the field. Fans (and reporters) will surely be more cautious this time around.

And there are some quibbles and questions. Quarterback Nick Foles seems like a luxury pick. The Eagles sabotaged their leverage by waiting too long to deal Asante Samuel. Their backup plans for LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick look shaky, and the safety ranks are thin.

But when the biggest gripes are about one starting job, two backup positions, and a third-round pick, that's a sign of a pretty strong offseason.

The linebacker lineup is being remade again, but you have to feel better about Ryans and Kendricks than the rookies and late-round picks the Eagles relied on in 2011.

The Jason Peters injury is a concern - but it was a bad break that no one could control and the team rebounded as well as possible.

We don't know how Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will work out as a full-time starter or if Nnamdi Asomugha will live up to his billing. NFL reality tells us some of the draft picks won't meet expectations.

And, of course, more than any offseason move, the season will hinge on Vick's health and ability to cut down on turnovers.

We know you don't win Super Bowls in April. Last summer's high hopes only made the season's results sting more.

Still, it's easy to feel that they Eagles are off to a strong start. Winning begins with planning, and so far the plan looks good.

Birds sign 13 rookies

The Eagles have agreed to terms with 13 undrafted free agents: WR Elvis Akpla; LS Matt Camilli; TE Chase Ford; CB Cliff Harris; FB Emil Igwenagu; WR McKay Jacobson; WR Damaris Johnson; WR Aaron Pflugrad; RB Chris Polk; FB Jeremy Stewart; FS Phillip Thomas; P Ryan Tydlacka; and WR Darnell Williams.


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.

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