There were great expectations for the Philadelphia Eagles this year.
Andy Reid, who won nine NFC East crowns and went to five NFC Championship Games while winning more games than anyone else in franchise history, was sent packing, much to the delight of Philly fans. Chip Kelly, who led an elite offense at the collegiate level but failed to win any National Championships, was hired, and Philly fans rejoiced.
Eight weeks in, Reid, hired to help revitalize a bungling Kansas City Chiefs franchise, is off to an astonishing 8-0 start. The Eagles, on the flip side, are 3-5. That ridiculously awesome collegiate offense that worked so well against the likes of Colorado and Fresno State that Kelly installed hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown since October 13, getting shut down by divisional foes the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in the process.
Safe to say, this isn’t how the Eagles saw this going. As much change as there was last offseason for this still proud franchise, expect more after this year. The 2014 NFL Draft will be the place for them to look for the answers to their many questions.
Blaming the offense, especially for the jaw-dropping lack of production the last few weeks, would be too easy. Injuries and instability between the quarterbacks and wide receivers have hammered the Birds to the point where their offense, which initially prided itself on unpredictability, has become totally and utterly predictable (i.e. “I bet LeSean McCoy runs the ball on this play”).
The offense needs some tweaking, but the defense is where the Eagles need the most work. And they’ll address it throughout the draft.
The biggest holes on defense in order of importance are: nose tackle (assuming the Eagles will continue with the 3-4 defense next year), cornerback, free safety, strong safety, cornerback, and for good measure, cornerback.
I’m sure most fans would scream at me for saying NT is a bigger need than cornerback, but anyone who knows anything about how a 3-4 defense operates understands the nose is the centerpiece of the defense. Everything is predicated off his ability to spearhead the front of the defense. With the recent trade of Isaac Sopoaga, Bennie Logan has been asked to take over the starting role. While I like what Logan brings to the table, I think he’d be best suited playing outside at the five, rotating with Cedric Thornton.
Where the Eagles will be picking will dictate whether they draft a nose in the first round, because only Louis Nix (Notre Dame) is worthy of such a lofty selection. He could go as high as 6th and as low as 25th in the draft. Depending on his availability, they should look to him first. The next best 3-4 nose out there would be Daniel McCullers (Tennessee) who they can more than likely get at the end of round three or maybe even three. This is another reason I have NT ahead of CB because there are a heck of a lot more good corners out there than there are elite nose tackles.
CB is deep as usual for the 2014 draft class. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), Bradley Roby (Ohio St.) , Louchiez Purifoy (Florida) and Jason Verrett (TCU) all are viewed as first round talents. All would provide immediate depth and playmaking in the defensive backfield the Eagles have sorely lacked. If they don’t go after a CB first, there’ll be ample opportunity later; there are about 15 CBs who are legitimate third round or higher prospects, and I could realistically see them drafting 3-4 CBs.
My favorite dark horse for the Eagles to pick is Florida State DB Lamarcus Joyner in round twp. He’s a thumper who can play both CB and S and can also return kicks and punts.
It’s not just nose tackle and defensive backfield that will be looked upon in their draft. I could see them adding another offensive playmaker (as Kelly can never have enough of those at his disposal), and depth along the offensive line is always seemingly a problem in Philly. More linebackers will also likely be added, both inside and out.
Bottom line is there are a lot of holes to fill for the Eagles, and it won’t all be figured out in one draft. It takes a couple of really good drafts in a row before you begin seeing results in wins and losses.