2013 NFL Draft: Philadelphia Eagles Top 5 Needs
Top 5 Philadelphia Eagles Needs Before 2013 NFL Draft
The Philadelphia Eagles will begin a new era in the 2013 NFL season with new head coach Chip Kelly. The Eagles are in the midst of their worst two season record (12-20 in 2011-2012) since the 1998-1999 seasons (8-24), and also a two season playoff drought. The infamous 2011 "Dream Team" free agency spending spree proved to be disastrous in terms of team chemistry, which brings us to the 2013 season.
The coaching staff has a completely new look under Kelly. The new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is very familiar with the Eagles, but looks to bring a new touch to the offense. The new defensive coordinator Bill Davis has ran multiple different defensive schemes over his career, and we eagerly anticipate knowing which defense he will implement here. Assistant coaches include a ton of new faces in new places, and even some familiar faces in the ranks. This staff will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the Eagles moving forward from the dismal 2012 season.
Any team that goes 4-12 has some important decisions to make with their roster, and the Eagles are no exception to the rule. Who stays and who goes? This is the most important question facing the Eagles at this point in the NFL offseason. One of the first steps is answering this question is identifying their top needs that need to be remedied. In this article we'll identify the top five needs of the Eagles and try to explain why the need is so critical.
#5 Need: Red Zone Improvement
The red zone has been somewhat more of a twilight zone for the Eagles in the past few seasons. Offensive red zone production is of dire importance to every team in the NFL. The lack of it portrays an offense that can pile up yards, but walks away with no points or only field goals to show for it, also known as the Eagles of late. A strong running game, a consistent TE or a big, tall WR are some of the best options to use when your team is in the red zone. The biggest problem is that the Eagles have had two of these three options on the team, to include an elusive QB, during this current red zone drought. The problem proved to be the inept play calling in the red zone by former Eagles head coach (and current Kansas City Chiefs head coach) Andy Reid and former Eagles offensive coordinator (and current New York Jets offensive coordinator) Marty Mornhinweg.
Long gone are the days of the Donovan McNabb to Brian Westbrook shuffle pass that seemed to magically work most of the time, even though most knew it was coming. However, when it began to fail the game plan never seemed to really change. Eagles fans sat in front of their televisions and watched their team march up and down the field like a top five offense, only to sputter inside the 20 yard line. Gimmick plays and misdirection were the popular choices that just seemed to fail time and time again. It's time for a change and head coach Kelly appears ready for that challenge. The good news here is that the Eagles offensive red zone production can't get too much worse and the draft offers some big, productive WR (4 of top 5 prospects are over 6’2", 195lbs) and TE targets ("...10-12 intriguing tight ends in the class…" - Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN analyst). Let us hope that head coach Kelly and new Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can reverse this disturbing trend in this upcoming season.
#4 Need: Defensive Line Consistency
The game of football is won in the trenches. The 2012 season proved this for the Eagles as injuries and poor production proved costly along the offensive and defensive lines, leading to a 4-12 campaign. For now we'll focus on the DL and how the Eagles can improve. Starting DT Cullen Jenkins and longtime Eagles DT Mike Patterson, a fan favorite, were released last month in what appeared to be cost-effective moves. Replacing their production and leadership along the defensive line is very important. This leads us to the confusing aspect of the Eagles defense, as nobody seems to know for sure what defensive front the Eagles and new defensive coordinator Bill Davis will deploy in 2013.
If the Eagles move forward with the much rumored 4-3 Under base defense it changes the needs that the Eagles face along the DL. Under this defensive scheme the Eagles biggest need will be to settle the NT position. The Eagles have employed smaller, quicker defensive lineman over the past decade as opposed to the bigger, space eating defensive lineman utilized in a 3-4 defensive scheme. The 4-3 Under has the appearance of a 3-4 defensive front and does require a more traditional 3-4 NT in the interior, complimented by the smaller, quicker defensive linemen on the outside. The good news here is that the Eagles do have the personnel to fit most of the positions along the 4-3 Under defensive line, and the upcoming NFL draft has a deep group of DT prospects (University of Florida DT Sharrif Floyd and University of Utah DT Star Lotulelei widely considered top 10 talents). Finalizing what type of defense the Eagles will utilize this season will go a long way in nailing down their most pressing needs along the defensive line.
Unrestricted FAs: DT Derek Landri (possibly gone - inconsistency) & DE Darryl Tapp (possibly gone - performance)
#3 Need: Offensive Line Stability and Consistency
In 2011 the Eagles OL was considered one of the best in the league that season, led by anchor LT Jason Peters. The loss of Peters the following season, plus numerous other injuries to other OL starters and a lack of quality depth, led to a disastrous encore campaign by the previously heralded Eagles OL. The only reason this need is not sitting at #2 is due to the fact that the widely acclaimed 2011 starting OL is expected to be back to full strength for the start of the 2013 season. However, injuries always happen so the lack of quality depth is still an issue. Another issue is settling the RG position. Baylor G Danny Watkins was drafted 23rd overall in the 2011 NFL Draft in the hopes of securing this position for the foreseeable future. However, Watkins has been very inconsistent and that led to his second demotion in favor of FA pickup G Jake Scott, who proved to be a quality backup and adequate starting RG.
Scott will become an unrestricted FA in a matter of days, and resigning him would seem to be a good idea to help boost quality depth along the OL. Either way, the question still remains at the RG position. One rumored solution making the rounds is to draft a lineman with the #4 overall pick this year to take over the RT spot. Then move Herremans back to his natural RG position, where he excelled before given the RT position. Herremans has played well at RT but was even more dominant at RG, so this idea may just work. The good news here is that the FA market for OL has potential targets (Eagles rumored to have already contacted recently released Chiefs T Eric Winston), the OT draft class this year is deep (ton of talent in top 5) and the OG class is deep at the top (2 of top 5 heralded as best prospects in some time). Building through the draft is always ideal, but the Eagles also have other holes that they may be looking to address with the #4 pick. With such deep OL draft classes, there is little doubt that the Eagles will draft an OL sometime during this upcoming draft. The FA period next week will go a very long way in determining what the Eagles will do early in the draft.
Unrestricted FAs: T King Dunlap (possibly gone - performance) & Scott (possibly resigned - quality depth)
#2 Need: Defensive Secondary Production and Consistency
I debated whether or not to separate the CB and S situations and create two needs because there is just so much to analyze here. Lucky for you I will keep this short and sweet because this situation has been hammered all offseason. The entire defensive secondary needs a makeover, point blank, period. This need almost took the #1 spot. Starting CBs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) have been underwhelming, to put it mildly. This was only complicated by the horrendous play of the starting safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. Judging from their performances alone all four of these players should be replaced and released or allowed to walk. Only time will tell how head coach Kelly wants to handle this entire situation, but something needs to be done to remedy this disaster.
While I have yet to hear or read any arguments for the Eagles to keep Asomugha or Coleman, I have seen some make cases for resigning DRC and keeping Allen around (for depth only) for the upcoming season. DRC is young, athletic and has all the tools to get back to the Pro Bowl but he is far too inconsistent. Given him another shot seems to be a fairly popular sentiment in sports circles as he measures up well against the upcoming FA CB market. This is a dire situation for the Eagles that must be dealt with quickly or we may be watching a carbon copy of last season's secondary. The good news here is that this situation will begin to play out very soon (the FA period is set to begin next week followed by the draft next month), the CB draft class this year is starting to look better (great combine showings to backup player tape & top 3 earning more and more praise) and the Eagles are flush with cap space ($33 million currently, possibly up to $44 million depending on Asomugha situation). The Eagles have the means to remedy this situation and there are options to be had. Let's hope that some good decisions are made here in the very near future.
Unrestricted FA: CB Rodgers-Cromartie (inconclusive)
Restricted FA: S Colt Anderson (possibly resigned - ST ace & quality depth)
#1 Need: Consistent QB Production
The QB position is often referred to as the "Field General" and for good reason. Good play at this position can mask some deficiencies on a football team. He can make the WRs and TEs look better (better passes), the OL look better (get the ball out quickly), help out the defense (more rest) and even bail out the ST units (field position). Nonetheless, bad QB play can do just the opposite and that's sadly what Eagles fans are becoming accustomed to. Eagles QB Michael Vick has been historically atrocious aside from the brilliance that was the first half of the 2010 season. Recent draft picks have not panned out and QB Nick Foles may be only the next in that line. No veteran QB has been brought in and made any difference since Jeff Garcia in 2006...good luck QB Dennis Dixon. Donovan McNabb turned out to be one of the better Eagles draft picks in their history, but could never quite finish the job. Kelly, general manager Howie Roseman and company have their work cut out for them in securing this position for the long-term.
Two reasons this need made #1 on this list: franchise QBs are very hard to find (possibly the hardest front office job in all of sports) and the lack of prospects in the upcoming draft and in FA. Lot of doom and gloom to go around this topic, but there is some good news. Once again, the Eagles are in great salary cap shape this offseason. Also, Kelly's offensive scheme may be better fits for players like Vick, Dixon (he mastered it before) or dare I say, WVU QB Geno Smith. Kelly has been known to adjust his game plan toward his QB's skill set, so this need may not be as dire as a lot of us see it as. Maybe Vick turns out to be all he needs to take the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Maybe he and Dixon rekindle their Oregon Ducks magic. Maybe he brings in a draft pick that surprises (Smith, Syracuse University QB Ryan Nassib, Florida State University QB EJ Manuel) and locks down the position for years to come. Or just maybe we have overlooked Foles, and a innovative and adaptive coach like Kelly is all he needed to bring out his true potential. Lot of possibilities for the Eagles here and the front office is tasked with finding the best one. A miss on this one and it could further the nosedive that this franchise is currently in.