One draft won't solve all the Eagles' ills

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Coach Chip Kelly says he feels good about the talent base of his new team.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Coach Chip Kelly says he feels good about the talent base of his new team.
Posted: May 01, 2013

THE EAGLES' 2013 draft seems to be generating high marks, as meaningless a notion as that might be before any of the prospects has even been measured for a midnight-green helmet.

But last year's record still reads 4-12. If coach Chip Kelly somehow reverses that in 1 year, well, he'll be underpaid at $6.5 million a year, and it might be time for some new statuary outside the Linc.

The Eagles were active in addressing gaping holes in free agency, and they corralled some exciting prospects in the draft, but in a perfect world, more of those exciting prospects would have been defensive backs or linebackers. This is not to fault the Eagles for going with value at No. 4 overall with offensive tackle Lane Johnson or even at 35th overall with tight end Zach Ertz, but it is to point out that many of their fundamental problems remain patched, at best, not really solved for the long term, with the player acquisition process for 2013 pretty much completed.

"When you're in the moment and you're in the draft and you're thinking about what players you're going to draft and who you're going to get and who's the best available player and who's the best available player the next day, I haven't had a chance to sit down and take it all in," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Saturday night, when asked to assess his roster. "If you go into it saying you're going to fix every single part of something, it's going to be impossible. If you come out of a draft saying we've filled every need, it's probably not going to be a good draft. I don't think that was our goal . . . to make sure we had a perfect team in 1 year, it was to start the process of building back a team that's going to compete every year."

This sort of talk was forbidden around the NovaCare Complex the previous several years. After five NFC title game berths in eight seasons, only one Super Bowl appearance and no Lombardi Trophies, the Eagles knew during the latter part of the Andy Reid-Joe Banner era that nobody wanted to hear about building for the future, or about any other season beyond the one directly ahead. Fans thought that early in that regime, a better focus on the here and now might have pushed one of those contending teams to the top.

This was the impetus behind Banner's disastrous "all-in" chirping at Lehigh during the free-agent-signathon of 2011. The Eagles wanted everyone to know they were focusing on the short term, trying to bring home that trophy.

But going 4-12 and hiring a new coach, with new systems, allows you to start talking about the long run again, without engendering howls of outrage.

It probably means something that the Eagles haven't posted a 2013 depth chart yet. The one available on their website is from the end of the 2012 season. I, for one, will be surprised if Cullen Jenkins is still a starting defensive tackle here, since he seems to have acquired another gig with the Giants.

Kelly recently said depth charts don't mean much this early in a new coach's regime, that his depth chart right now is "more of a seating chart" - an organizing tool, not a final statement on who's a starter and who's a sub. That's because Kelly has seen his team on the field, running his new systems, for only 3 days so far. In many cases, I'm betting he has close to no idea whether this guy is better than that guy.

At the safety position, a hotspot last season (maybe the hotspot), right now, Kelly has Nate Allen, Colt Anderson, Patrick Chung, Kurt Coleman, Kenny Phillips, David Sims and fifth-round draftee Earl Wolff.

As eager as fans are to erase all traces of 2012, if you had to pick two 2013 starters out of that group on April 30, I'd pick Allen as one of them, along with the ex-Giant, Phillips. And I'd be crossing my fingers that Phillips is all the way back from injury.

"I've really enjoyed having Nate since I've been here," Kelly said this past weekend when asked about the 2010 second-round pick, who has shown only flashes of the ability that got him drafted 37th overall. "He works extremely hard, has got a skill set. He can run, change direction. Watching film, you know he's a physical player . . . Now, it's just the learning process of him being able to diagnose plays and make decisions and some of those things.

"We're encouraged with Nate right now," said Kelly, who added that new defensive coordinator Billy Davis had Allen "as a very high pick coming out and was really intrigued with him when we got here. So far, so good . . . I think he's got, obviously, the skill set to be a very good safety in this league."

At cornerback, the roster right now shows Brandon Boykin, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley, Curtis Marsh, seventh-round draftee Jordan Poyer, Eddie Whitley and Cary Williams. Bold prediction: The Pro Bowl will be held next winter without an Eagles corner present.

Kelly noted Saturday that the Eagles "lost" Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha this offseason. (If that's the proper term, then I guess I "lost" my trash when the truck came around yesterday.)

"We felt like with Fletcher and Cary, we weren't going to sit here on draft day and say, 'We have to get a corner.' We feel like we have two guys that have played in the league and have proven they can play in the league, so now we felt pretty good looking at our positions, so that we don't have to reach."

Kelly was asked whether he felt, after finishing free agency and the draft, that he has a good talent base.

"Yeah. If not, I'd be real depressed right now, to be honest with you," he said, laughing. "We've gone through free agency and the draft, but it's a constant thing and you'll still look."

Birdseed

Lane Johnson was the highest-drafted Eagles offensive lineman since Jerry Sisemore (third overall in 1973) . . . The Eagles' rookie minicamp is scheduled for May 10-12 . . . The Eagles made official the signing of the nine undrafted free agents listed in yesterday's Daily News. The most intriguing might be LSU punter Brad Wing, who set the school record with a 44.6-yard career average, but also left school after being suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, reportedly for failing a drug test.


Email: bowenl@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|