It’s been 13 years since Andy Reid was named the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and by now, fans have learned his strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths: He could turn a block of wood into a good quarterback. He recognizes the importance of winning the battles in the trenches. He is respected and loved by his players.
Weaknesses: He is a poor in-game decision maker. He doesn’t value the linebacker position enough. He struggles with clock management. And his rookies never turn into solid players in their first season.
Look at Reid’s previous first round draft picks and the majority, if not all, didn’t make an immediate impact for the Eagles.
Donovan McNabb. Freddie Mitchell. Lito Sheppard. Jerome McDougle. Brodrick Bunkley. Brandon Graham. Danny Watkins.
And when a player does show promise right away, something goes wrong, like guard Shawn Andrews breaking his leg and missing the entire season in 2004, when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl.
This year is completely different for Reid’s Eagles.
Not one, not two, not three, but four rookies from the 2012 draft class look like they could be making an immediate impact on the field for the Eagles.
Let’s begin with first round draft pick Fletcher Cox, who could start from week one for the Eagles at defensive tackle. But the team is so loaded, even with veteran Mike Patterson likely to head to the PUP to begin the season, that Cox will probably play on the second line behind Cullen Jenkins and Derek Landri.
Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was taken in the second round. He’s looked fantastic throughout training camp and the first couple of preseason games. I don’t really like to judge players based off of their preseason performances, especially veterans, but for rookies, that’s all you’ve got. Kendricks will be a week one starter at strongside linebacker and I expect him to be the best linebacker the Eagles have had since Stewart Bradley in 2008.
In the third round, the Eagles took quarterback Nick Foles. Foles was given just about no chance to be the Eagles’ backup this season. That spot was all but reserved for third-year player Mike Kafka. But a lot has changed since the start of camp. Kafka has struggled and broke his hand, and Foles dominated in both preseason games. He looks like he could step in and guide the Eagles if needed during a Michael Vick injury.
And in the fourth round, the Eagles selected cornerback/return man Brandon Boykin. Boykin has really impressed as of late, especially at cornerback, where he is locked in a strong competition with veteran Joselio Hanson for the nickel cornerback spot. He’s also the team’s top option at kick returner, where he looks to be a significant improvement over last year’s returner, Dion Lewis.
I haven’t even counted defensive end Vinny Curry, who was drafted in the second round and should be a key player in a few years but has struggled early in training camp and will likely be buried on the depth chart this season.
The Eagles also have offensive linemen Dennis Kelly and Brandon Washington, both late round picks. Kelly will probably make the team and should be considered a project, while Washington is likely a practice squad guy. Expect wide receiver Marvin McNutt to also end up on the practice squad, although he could be a contributor down the line. And running back Bryce Brown, a seventh round pick, is a huge wild-card this season, but he has tremendous potential and will likely make the team.
Compare this year’s draft class to last year’s draft class.
Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, a second round pick, barely played as a rookie and wasn’t effective when he did.
Cornerback Curtis Marsh was picked in the third round but he played in just a dozen plays as a rookie and was a failure on special teams, fumbling punts in consecutive games late in the season, despite not being the original return man on either play.
Kicker Alex Henery was a success, but it’s still difficult to justify picking a kicker in the fourth round (although Henery does look as if he might be a special one someday). The team’s other fourth round pick, linebacker Casey Matthews, was drafted purely on name recognition, and he spent his rookie season showing that he was nothing like his older brother Clay, who is one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
The rest of picks look okay. Offensive linemen Julian Vandervelde will provide depth at guard and center, linebacker Brian Rolle may start this season, and fullback Stanley Havili is fighting for a roster spot.
But the point is that the 2012 draft class just dominates the 2011 draft class, especially when comparing the picks in the first few rounds. Depth could be an essential element for the 2012 Eagles.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.