Roseman defends offensive draft picks despite defensive woes

Posted: October 02, 2013

YESTERDAY evening, even with the NFL stats showing the Eagles' defense ranked last in the league, following a 52-20 embarrassment at Denver, Howie Roseman didn't second-guess his decision to spend the Eagles' first two draft choices this year on offensive players.

"We talked a lot in the offseason about trying to build a strength," the Eagles' general manager said after completing his 94WIP radio show. "We felt like if we added one or two players to our defense, especially young players in the draft, that would maybe create no strength on your football team. When I look back at it, the decision we made to kind of go after it and get Lane [Johnson], get Zach [Ertz], based on what potentially the offense does and how we're trying to build this thing, I still think it was the right decision.

"Does that mean that we don't need to address the other side of the ball, that we can continue to [just add to the offense]? . . . I think that's a no-brainer here."

The Eagles would have taken Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan fourth overall, instead of right tackle Johnson, if Miami hadn't jumped in front of them and drafted Jordan. The Eagles took tight end Ertz with the third pick of the second round, just before the Lions drafted Mississippi State corner Darius Slay, who has struggled so far. The next defensive possibility would have been linebacker Manti Te'o, drafted 38th by the Chargers.

It seems fair, though, to wonder if, after finishing 2012 with the worst defense in recent memory, the Eagles really did much of anything to improve it, either in the draft or free agency.

Asked that yesterday, Roseman said four games into the season isn't the time to draw conclusions.

"The good part about the season is that you get a chance to look at your roster over a 16-week period. There are highs and lows throughout the course of the season, and I think you've got to take the long-term view . . . It was hard for us, in the first year of the program, to know exactly how it was going to look," he said. "We're changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4. We knew coming into this year there were some things we needed, but we weren't clear on exactly what we had and what we were going to need. We knew that was part of the process here, especially on that side of the ball.

"It's a tough day, and it's a tough period of time right now. But we have faith that as we get going here, things are going to get better and we'll get a clearer picture of that. Some of our young players will get a chance to step up and learn the defense and play fast. I think that's all part of the process of it. Certainly we understand that we're trying to build it and trying to get something that can be together for a while, and not just put Band-Aids on things."

Roseman said learning to play as a 3-4 end is a difficult transition for Fletcher Cox, the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft, who left college a year early and won't turn 23 until Dec. 13. "When you've been doing something your whole life, and you're playing in a certain scheme your whole life, and now you have to transition, it takes time to do that effectively," Roseman said. "He's got tremendous passion for the game of football, he's got tremendous ability, he's an incredibly explosive player in terms of power and athletic ability . . . It doesn't come automatically for players in the National Football League. You see that all around the league; guys aren't just coming off from college and just dominating over [their first] 20 games, but you see enough flashes to know what kind of a player he can be."

Earlier, on Roseman's show, the GM said he isn't worried about first-year coach Chip Kelly losing patience and wanting to return to college. Kelly's name comes up in speculation about high-profile jobs, such as at USC and Texas.

In Kelly's day-after news conference, the coach said Ertz, billed as an explosive weapon, who has caught just five passes in four games, is still learning the ins and outs of the pro game.

"He's four games into his professional career," Kelly said

Other topics covered by Kelly yesterday:

* Kelly said he doesn't mind Michael Vick taking off when an opponent is playing man/press coverage, because that defensive setup isn't accounting for the quarterback.

* "There's a lot of things" limiting the Eagles in the red zone, Kelly said. "Specifically [Sunday], penalties and drops."

* Kelly was asked about not going for it on fourth down late in the first half, if he was being conservative. He said he didn't think the decision to punt was being conservative. He didn't elaborate.

* Kelly said inconsistency is the biggest concern for him on special teams, where the Eagles gave up 14 points Sunday, on a kickoff return and a blocked punt - "things we work on on a daily basis - it's not like we put in a new scheme, or we put in something special for the Broncos game."

* Kelly expressed confidence in kicker Alex Henery, who has missed a field goal in each of the last three games.

* Asked about the struggles of second-year linebacker Mychal Kendricks, Kelly said: "Sometimes Mychal thinks a little bit too much and doesn't let himself go play." He said as Kendricks learns and grows, he thinks "you'll see him get better and better and better because he does have those athletic skills."

* Kelly said defensively, the Eagles are giving up catches underneath to avoid getting beaten downfield.

* Kelly said he does not foresee lineup changes.

* Asked about the play of safeties Nate Allen and Earl Wolff, Kelly said: "Nate played better than the last 2 weeks. I love Earl's energy in running around. He's still a young rookie, just like a lot of our rookies, he's made a few mistakes . . . He's going to fly around, he's going to give you everything he's got. But he's still learning on the job."

* Kelly said running back Chris Polk "warranted some playing time from what he did yesterday."


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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