All in all, Philadelphia Eagles fans should be pretty happy with the overall performance of their team after the big Monday night win over the Washington Redskins. But just after one game, it’s becoming apparent what should be a priority for them in the 2014 NFL Draft.
The offense, expected by new coach Chip Kelly to run about 2,000 plays a game (though actually only ran 77), was impressive indeed against a solid ‘Skins D. The Birds’ offense finished with 443 yards, with 263 coming on the ground.
The defense, on the other hand, came into the season with many questions in both the front and back seven. Throughout the preseason, the front seven was regularly brutalized, while the secondary was hit or miss. After one game, the front seven looks outstanding, while the secondary looks like it could be beat by Northwestern Maine State. Granted, they looked good the first three quarters, but that was going against a QB who hasn’t played a live snap in nine months. Mark this down: The Eagles will be looking for at least one, if not two new starters in their defensive backfield in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, freshly signed from the St. Louis Rams, finished with seven tackles. Sure, that’s great, but no PBUs, no INTs, no sacks, no TFLs, not even QB hurries. Though he was solid in press coverage, he was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Overall, he’s not a long term answer.
Safety Nate Allen was solid against the run with six tackles, but similarly to Fletcher, nothing else. Fellow safety Patrick Chung, brought in this offseason from the New England Patriots, did exactly what the Eagles expected him to do, make tackles (7) and be a liability in coverage (which he truly was in Week 1).
Really the only bright spot came with cornerback Cary Williams, signed from the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, and he had a fantastic game. Williams finished with 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 PBUs, 1 QB hit and an interception. Now that’s a heck of a way to start the season.
Aside from Williams, no other starter looked like someone who should be with the team more than a season or two, which is exactly why the Eagles need to prioritize the secondary in the next draft. But it’s not just starters that will be needed, it’s depth as well, as aside from Brandon Boykin, there’s not a lot of quality there.
Like with every NFL Draft, there’s a boatload of defensive back prospects this year. And judging by many of the looks new defensive coordinator Billy Davis was showing, he wants his secondary to be very aggressive and excel in press-coverage (a la the Seattle Seahawks), and there are many prospects who fit that scheme.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon) would be an outstanding fit in the mid-to-late first round (more than likely where the Eagles will be picking). He’s a rangy, physical cornerback who has the playmaking instincts Davis craves (20 PBUs, 4 INTs, 6 FFs in 2012 alone). Loucheiz Purifoy (Florida), could arguably be the most complete corner in the country and will probably be competing with Ekpre-Olomu for second corner taken behind Ohio State‘s Bradley Roby, who will be gone long before Philly picks.
Some mid-to-later round prospects that would fit are Antone Exum (Virginia Tech), who’s a tackling machine with soft hands and good instincts, Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Bene Benwikere (San Jose State) and my dark horse, Pierre Desir (Lindenwood).
A solid free safety prospect could also be in the mix early on for the Birds. Someone like Hasean Clinton-Dix (Alabama) or Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State) would instantly provide an upgrade over Allen at FS.
I’m not saying the Birds only focus will be on the secondary, as there’s always plenty of holes and depth that can be improved on any NFL roster. But it will be addressed in the Draft at some point.