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NFL Philadelphia Eagles

2011 NFL Draft Needs for the Philadelphia Eagles, #5: Safety

After the 2008 season, the Philadelphia Eagles shockingly allowed future Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins to walk via free agency. Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos and the Eagles spent an awkward year with Macho Harris, Quintin Demps, and Sean Jones all proving that they’re not capable of starting at free safety.

Then came the 2010 NFL draft, and the Eagles selected safety Nate Allen in the second round. Allen was immediately touted as the potential replacement for Dawkins.

He started 13 games in 2010, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for September. In all, Allen recorded 43 tackles, intercepted three passes, collected two sacks, and defensed eight passes.

His season was cut short, however, when he tore his patellar tendon during the Eagles’ incredible comeback victory against the New York Giants in late December.

On the other side of the field, strong safety Quintin Mikell turned in another solid season, leading the team in tackles (77). He defensed 15 passes, intercepted three, and recovered three fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. For his efforts, Mikell earned 2nd-Team All-NFL honors by the Associated Press.

2010 marked the third straight season that Mikell was recognized as one of the NFL’s top safeties. He was also named 2nd-Team All-NFL honors by the Associated Press after 2008, and he was selected as a Pro Bowler after 2009.

But Mikell, who turns 31 next September, recently told Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer that he does not expect the Eagles to sign him for next season. Mikell also said that he does not go to the team facility and he has not spoken with new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. And this was before the NFL lockout, when players had freedom to interact with their coaches and use the facilities.

If Mikell does not return, the Eagles need to draft his replacement. Kurt Coleman, the team’s seventh-round draft pick in 2010, started two games (for Nate Allen) late in the season. Coleman showed potential as a backup, but he isn’t ready to be a starter in the NFL.

Nate Allen says he’ll be healthy in time for the start of the 2011 season, but the Eagles don’t know if he will have lingering effects from his injury. Even if he doesn’t, the Eagles don’t want to have to start Coleman.

Drafting a safety, possibly as high as the second or third round, would be a wise decision for a team that also needs to find its starting right cornerback, an outside linebacker, and a defensive end.