The Philadelphia Eagles certainly saw their share of disasters on defense last year, and their secondary was not immune to poor play. Although they managed to corral the most coveted free agent of the year in cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, in addition to trading for a talented young cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles struggled mightily in the secondary. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that the players were often required to play out of position. Rodgers-Cromartie regularly played the nickel corner spot (a position with which he was wholly unfamiliar) and Asomugha was forced to commonly play off of receivers when his strength is press coverage. Add in the fact that Asante Samuel is petrified of physical contact, often going out of his way to avoid it, the cornerback position was filled with unexpectedly sloppy performances for the entirety of the season.
As has been noted ad nauseum, Eagles head coach Andy Reid has a slight obsession with taking linemen in the first round of the draft. This is not necessarily always the prudent choice, but it is his choice, nonetheless. This is a year that the Eagles should not take a lineman in the first round. If they reach for an offensive lineman to replace Jason Peters, the youngster will likely be a liability for a significant portion of the season. The defensive line has some depth that doesn’t require the team to fill that position in the first round. The Eagles may very well consider Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick with the 15th overall selection, especially considering the fact that there has been a great deal of conversation about the possibility of Philadelphia trading Asante Samuel.
Kirkpatrick, a 6’2” 185 pound Junior is generally projected to go within the first 20 picks of the 2012 NFL draft. He has 4.4 / 4.5 speed in the 40 which will allow him to stay with most, if not all receivers in the NFL. Kirkpatrick is also very physical for his size, so he will not get thrown around when playing press coverage. In addition to that, he has an exceptionally high “football I.Q.”, allowing him to pick up on complicated defensive schemes quickly as well as knowing when to make changes against certain offensive fronts. One of the things about Kirkpatrick that has to be most appealing to the Eagles, however, is the fact the he is great in support of the run. He has the ability to get off of blockers, get to the ball carrier and lay a solid, form tackle on the opposition.
In his 3 year college career, Dre accumulated 91 total tackles (66 solo), 3 interceptions and 19 passes defended. He also had 1 touchdown and 3 forced fumbles, coming in his sophomore and junior seasons. The fact that he played on an incredibly dominant defense in college obviously plays into the fact that his numbers were not out of this world. There are only so many tackles and interceptions to go around when you’re surrounded by NFL caliber talent at most positions.
Much has been made about Kirkpatrick’s recent arrest for possession of marijuana, and I agree that is certainly a yellow flag. However, in the overall context of his personality and character, this appears to be more of an anomaly than the norm. Kids in college do stupid things, and this seems to be one of those stupid things. That doesn’t mean that he is a bad character guy or that he will be toxic to a locker room. The fact that some teams may very well eliminate him from consideration for making a stupid choice (and not a series of stupid choices) may bode well for the Eagles and their 15th overall pick.