4-12 just isn’t good enough. Not at any level of the game. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid went into the 2012 season knowing he was on the hot seat and that it was a make or break season. The result was a 4-12 season, and, predictably, Reid lost his job.
The man hired to replace the most successful head coach in the 80 year history of the Eagles, Chip Kelly, is a relative novice head coach (only four seasons as a head coach, all at the collegiate level), but with a phenomenal track record in that time (46-7 record). He’s also got the reputation for being an offensive mastermind, having run an offense at Oregon that put up videogame-like numbers. Pair a creative mind like that with the explosive skill position players the Eagles currently have and intrigue begins running rampant.
But last year’s roster isn’t going to look like this year’s roster. Changes needed to be made, and the process is currently underway. Thus far, the Eagles have made some solid moves in free agency, adding many players at ‘need’ positions like safety, cornerback and defensive tackle. This is smart because this will enable the Eagles to take the best player available on Draft day, something they used to do before the failed “Dream Team” experiment two years ago.
So with many needs being addressed in free agency, who then will the Eagles look at drafting?
Offensive line is a major weakness right now on this team. It helps that Jason Peters will be returning from injury, but there’s still a dearth of quality starters and quality backups. This year’s draft is loaded at the top with high-end tackle talent, and the Eagles will definitely have their chance to grab one with the fourth pick. It seems Reid (now the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and selecting first overall in the draft) will be picking a tackle number one, either Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) or Eric Fisher (Central Michigan). Neither the Jacksonville Jaguars (picking second) nor the Oakland Raiders (picking third) look to be adding a tackle with those picks, so one of the two should still be around for the Eagles selection.
Both Joeckel and Fisher can play either side of the line and are highly versatile, so finding a spot to put them in won’t be hard. If it was up to me, I’d put the young buck on the left side, move Peters to the right, and move Todd Herremans back inside to his more natural guard position. But all of that will have to be decided when we know who the starting quarterback will be (a left or right handed quarterback). Shoring up the offensive line has to be the highest priority for this franchise moving forward.
Cornerback is probably the second highest priority. In the last year and a half, the Eagles have lost quality corners like Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, all of whom are former Pro Bowlers. Yes, the Birds have done a good job so far in free agency, adding Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, but they still need a lockdown, number one cover man. Dee Milliner (Alabama) could be available at number four. He’s big (6’1” 200lbs) and fast (4.37 40) and has experience playing in both man and zone cover schemes, as well as a blitzing 3-4 defense (something the Eagles are looking to create this year). Milliner could step in and be the Eagles number one corner from the get-go as well as further bolster their depth chart. The secondary used to be the strength of the franchise for years and years, and now it’s become the franchise’s biggest hole. If the Eagles don’t take a corner in the first round, expect them to in the second or third rounds.
After offensive line and cornerback, the Eagles will be looking to add talent wherever they can. Isaac Sopoaga is a good signing to play the nose, but younger depth is still needed. Most of the Eagles defensive ends from last year’s squad will be moving to outside linebacker with the defensive change, so 5-tech defensive ends will be addressed as well. As talented as this year’s defensive line class is, Philly can find quality depth all throughout the draft there. Safety help could also be necessary if Patrick Chung can’t stay healthy. Linebacker depth always seems to be an issue, and that will become more apparent with the move to an odd front, especially considering middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans isn’t particularly a good fit in that scheme.
What about quarterback? I’m sure by now someone has to be wondering about that. I don’t see the Eagles taking a quarterback in the first round, and probably not the second either, unless they really start getting attached to Florida State Seminoles alum E.J. Manuel, who will be available then. But with Michael Vick, Nick Foles, newly signed Dennis Dixon (a Kelly favorite) and G.J. Kinne, they have more than enough depth right now. I can see them taking a flyer in the middle rounds, but this class is too weak to take one in the first round. I don’t think the Eagles’ franchise quarterback will be on the roster this fall, and it will probably be the major priority next year.
The Eagles are taking the team in a new direction for the first time since 1999, and there will be some growing pains. That doesn’t necessarily mean bad things, however. The Indianapolis Colts made incredibly drastic organizational changes last year and went from 2-14 to 11-5, showing it’s possible. But that’s also not the norm, either.
The goal for the Eagles this year should just be to get back to the playoffs, which would at least show they’re back on the right track.
To do that, they’re going to have to keep filling those holes.
Rick Stavig is a National Recruiting Columnist for RantSports.com. In addition to covering College Football, he also covers the NFL and NFL Draft. Follow him on Twitter @rickstavig or add him to your network on google.