Eagles general manager Howie Roseman focusing on Chip Kelly's needs

Milliner
Milliner
Posted: February 26, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS - Howie Roseman's job right now is to find the kinds of players new coach Chip Kelly needs, building at least a slightly different template than the one the Eagles used for 14 years under Andy Reid.

Defining that template is a huge, important undertaking in Year 1 of a regime, and it has been Roseman's focus at the NFL Scouting Combine, as the Eagles' general manager sits every day with Kelly and the rest of the scouting and coaching operation, watching more than 300 prospects work out.

"It's a learning process," Roseman said Sunday. "You talk about these guys and their strengths and weaknesses, to make sure we're thinking about it the same way and our staffs are thinking about it the same way . . . being able to speak the same language."

Roseman doesn't want to speak that language in public yet, though. There's a mystery right now with the Eagles, because nobody really knows what Kelly treasures, other than speed on offense. Previous years, you had some idea of how a player might or might not fit into the Eagles' offense or defense. Now, we're all guessing, as are the teams with which the Birds compete.

"I'm excited to talk about that with you after the draft," Roseman said. "You have a moment where you may have some sort of opportunity, and then once you draft or sign players, that goes away."

When Roseman spoke in Indianapolis Thursday, he acknowledged that the Eagles might be a little more concerned with height and weight than in the past. That might have as much to do with watching their defense get pushed all over the field last season en route to 4-12 as it does with Kelly.

"It all depends on the position," Roseman said Sunday. "In certain positions, there will be more of an emphasis on it."

It's probably safe to assume the defensive line is part of what Roseman is talking about there - you need a space-eater nose tackle and big defensive ends in a 3-4 setup.

We seem pretty safe in assuming Kelly wants more talent in the defensive secondary, which is a gaping hole right now that only gets deeper if Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie departs through free agency and Nnamdi Asomugha declines to rework the contract scheduled to pay him $15 million this season.

Roseman, by the way, confirmed he met Friday with Ben Dogra, who is Asomugha's agent, in Indianapolis, but Roseman wouldn't confirm any details. The Eagles are expected to release Asomugha if he won't restructure.

Sunday was the day defensive backfield prospects appeared before reporters at the combine. The top defensive backfield prospect in this draft, by most reckonings, is Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, who became an early offseason favorite of Eagles fans eager to put the era of Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie behind them.

But even before word emerged that Milliner would need shoulder surgery, there was considerable question whether he is an elite enough talent to justify taking with the Birds' fourth overall pick. The revelation that he'd finished the national championship season with a torn labrum added to the questions. Of course, we don't know the Eagles won't trade out of the fourth spot, in which case Milliner could indeed be a logical target.

Milliner told reporters Sunday at the combine he will have surgery March 12 and should need about 2 months to recover. Asked his response to critics who doubt his athleticism, Milliner said: "Watch the NFL combine."

That's what NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock will be doing when Milliner runs Tuesday afternoon, Mayock said Sunday.

"I don't know quite how fast he is yet. That's one of the last questions he has to answer, on his way to wherever he's going to end up in the first round," Mayock said during his weekend wrap-up news conference. "What I see on tape is a tough, instinctive guy who tackles, which I love; I love a corner who will tackle . . . he understands zone concepts, he plays man-to-man, he presses, he tackles. The only thing I'm not sure of is his long speed. That's going to be answered on Tuesday afternoon."

Milliner said he feels he suffered the injury in Alabama's lone loss, Nov. 10 vs. Texas A & M. He said he could have had surgery early last month, after the national championship game, but felt he needed to participate in the combine. He said he plans to do everything but the bench press.

If the Eagles don't trade out of the fourth spot, Mayock reiterated Sunday what he and other analysts have been saying for a while now - they'll probably be choosing among offensive or defensive linemen.

There was a lot of buzz Saturday about how fast several of the o-linemen were in the 40. Roseman said that wasn't anything to get too carried away with - "At the end of the day, you're talking about a position where it's important to play with power," though of course, athleticism is important.

Alabama guard Chance Warmack, the player Mayock has been touting as the best prospect in the draft, was notably not part of that speedy bunch - Warmack ran a 5.49. Mayock was undeterred.

"I don't really care what he runs," Mayock said. "I knew he wouldn't run well . . . when I made the comment he was the best football player I saw on tape this year, whatever he ran or jumped wasn't going to change that."

Some observers were surprised that Eric Fisher from Central Michigan performed better than the other top offensive tackle, Luke Joeckel from Texas A & M, in all the speed and agility tests, including the 40, where Fisher ran 5.05 to Joeckel's 5.3.

Mayock said he thought the two were very similar prospects even before those drills.

"I thought Eric Fisher closed the gap at the Senior Bowl," he said.

As Mayock noted, a year ago at the combine, we were talking about which quarterback new Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson would rebuild his franchise around - Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. This year we're talking about offensive tackles. It's a different draft class, unfortunately for a team like the Eagles, drafting in the top five for the first time since 1999.

"If you're a playoff team this year, you're laughing," Mayock said. "There's so much depth in this thing, that if you're drafting 20 to 30, it's not a whole lot different than if you're drafting fifth or sixth."


On Twitter: @LesBowen

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